Editing Your Novel

Need to Edit Your Novel? Here’s How to Do It

So you have finished your novel. First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS!!!

Finishing that first draft of your novel is no mean feat. But while it may be tempting to send it off to an agent or publisher right now, your novel isn’t likely to be ready.

The stark reality of first drafts, is that they are drafts, which means they inevitably need editing.

At some point in time you are going to need some fresh eyes on your work, but the first step is to edit your own work.

It is important to remember that a novel could go through a series of revisions, and the process could take a while but not to feel disheartened – this is a part of the process all writers must go through.

The Three Stages of Editing

The first series of revisions usually relate to the big picture and any structural issues. It’s often referred to as the structural edit. This is where you check on the plot, the goals of your character. You may also choose to correct any errors you discover along the way.

In the second revision, you may approach your edits chapter by chapter or scene by scene, focusing on flow. You will also be reviewing copy line by line to check for consistency, voice and tone, word choice, and other issues that might keep the novel from moving smoothly line by line. This is called the copy or line edit.

The final edit you conduct is what is called proofing to spot any typos or grammatical errors.

Beta Readers

Depending on where you are at with your novel, it might be a good idea to rope in someone else to read your work at the same time. Ideally, you will line up a few beta readers to read a draft that you consider ‘almost ready’.

While it may be tempting to approach family and friends, they do not always make the best beta readers.

Good beta readers are usually avid readers of the genre you are writing in, so can provide informed feedback about how to improve your novel.

Other useful beta readers are people experienced in writing or editing and are passionate about the craft.

It’s always a good idea to give your beta readers some specific questions to keep in mind when reading your novel.

Here are some questions you may like to use for your own editing, as well as for beta readers:

  • Were you hooked from the start? Did you want to keep reading?
  • Did the story hold your interest? If not, why not?
  • Did the following feel vivid and real to you?
    • The setting
    • Characters
    • Dialogue.
  • Were there any parts that confused you? Or even frustrated or annoyed you? Which parts, and why?
  • Did you notice any discrepancies or inconsistencies in time sequences, places, character details, or other details?
  • Do you have any other specific comments you’d like to add that would help improve this story?

Other Self-editing Tips

Change the font type of your manuscript with every round of edits

It’s very easy to get used to reading the same font over and over again. This makes it difficult for your eyes to recognise and spot errors, especially typos.

A neat trick is to change the font after each time you edit. Think of it as the equivalent of a fresh pair of eyes, except that your novel went through a fresh look.

Let it sit for a while

If you have the time and willpower for it, it’s always a good idea to put your novel away for a few weeks or more, to give your brain a break and to give you enough clarity when you come to editing.

Don’t overdo it

Editing is different from writing in the sense that you should not do it all day. Make sure you take breaks and divert your attention somewhere else. When you get back to editing, you will feel refreshed and ready to work with a full charge.

Use editing apps

You will find plenty of apps online to help with editing but the Hemingway app is one of the most in-depth as it tells you when a sentence is hard to read, points out complicated words and adverbs, and offers simpler suggestions for words.

Lastly, hire a professional editor. It may seem counterintuitive considering the work you’ve gone through but a pro can polish your novel further. And that work you’ve gone through will help you grow and improve as a writer, as well as improve your chances of getting published. So take a deep breath and get out that red pen today.