I Need to Edit My Novel

If you’re reading this article, congratulations! You’ve done something impressive and exciting. You’ve taken a cast of characters, an intriguing setting, a compelling plot and a few twists and turns and you’ve written a novel. Many people dream of writing a book. To do so is something else entirely. It’s a major accomplishment.

When you finish writing, the book is not yet complete. Now comes the editing. But where do you begin?

There are several different editing styles. Some people use special software to keep track of their changes and organize ongoing chapter edits. Some use critique partners. This involves working with another author and exchanging chapters or manuscripts to read and remark on. It can be a valuable tool for some, but remember that it’s important to draw upon the knowledge of someone who can improve your writing. This usually means working with a writer who is further along in the process than you are. Therefore, it may be difficult to do a free writing critique exchange. Instead, you may choose to hire a professional.

Professionals can assist in various stages of the editing process. Some offer professional beta reading. They can offer general impressions on what works or doesn’t work in your story. Content edits, line edits and copyedits are also available to check the punctuation, diction, syntax, character development and to ensure that there are no plot holes. All of these editing services for writers can be valuable.

But, this article is about editing your novel. Before you enlist the help of a professional or show your work to a beta reader or critique partner, it’s necessary that you edit it.

Here are a few steps.

1) Read your book from start to finish.

Feel the excitement of this step. You are the only person in the entire world who has read this book at this point. As you read it, pretend that you don’t know what’s going to happen. Put yourself in the shoes of a reader. Is the story engaging? Does it make sense? Is there a logical start, middle and conclusion?

2) Correct any major plot holes. After reading your book in step one, you have a feel for the story from a reader’s perspective. There’s no point in correcting minor punctuation changes at this point. Right now, you need to focus on the bones of the story. Did you forget the spine? Is there a stray bone in the hand? In other words, what parts belong that are missing and what’s unnecessary to the story?

3) Check your characters’ development. Yes, this means all characters, not only the main character. Is there some growth or change shown? Plot functions to further character development. If there’s no change, are you sure your plot was engaging enough?

4) Examine dialogue. Is it realistic? Do characters speak as though they are reading a script or do they pause to think, to be astonished, to have genuine reactions? Some writers read their manuscripts (particularly the dialogue portions) aloud to check for flow.

5) When everything is structurally sound, now it’s time to correct all punctuation and spelling errors.

6) When your book is perfectly polished (in the best state that you can put it in yourself) then it’s time to share it with someone else such as a beta reader or a professional writing consultant or editor.

Best of luck to you in all of your writing and editing!