Just saying the word “edit” usually strikes fear and trepidation in the hearts of authors everywhere. I used to dread the process, but after releasing 4 indie books, a short story, and working through edits for Center of Gravity, I’ve actually grown to appreciate and embrace this necessary part of writing!
Now, before you say “she’s crazy,” there are some ways to make the editing process go more smoothly and easily, even if you’re tackling your first novel. I believe that editing is all about being organized and breaking the task into manageable portions.
But first, here’s what needs to be done before you edit.
Step One: Finish your first draft
Some writers edit as they go, but I’ve found that I tend to get stuck re-working a certain area and never progress.
My advice? Push ahead, write each chapter, don’t go backwards, and get the first draft done.
Step Two: Take a break
You may be anxious to get your novel finished and press “publish,” but it’s necessary to step away from your first draft and get some perspective. Four to six weeks away from your book will help you approach edits refreshed and recharged. You’re more likely to see mistakes and errors and portions of the manuscript that need polishing and refining. As difficult as it may seem, do not skip this step!
Step Three: Read your book and take notes
There are several ways to handle this part. You can print your entire manuscript and work off the paper copy or send your manuscript to your e-reader and take notes on your laptop. Either way, settle in, read carefully, and take notes as you go.
While you read, keep a running list of things that need attention in your manuscript:
- Inconsistencies with story line or character
- Characters who appear and then disappear, never to be heard from again
- Ideas to improve a scene (setting, conflict, emotion, etc.)
- Ways to deepen a character’s goals, dreams, or growth
- A theme that needs further exploration
- Dialogue that needs sharpening
- Lengthy description that needs trimming
- Areas to research
You’re likely to end up with 3-5 pages of notes, which will be invaluable when you begin revising.
Step Four: Edit!
Here’s a handy list that anyone can use to self-edit a manuscript. I’ve gathered these prompts over the years from books that I’ve read on editing, other authors’ advice, my experience, and articles written on the subject.
Using your manuscript, and that same notebook or your computer, record everything you’ll need to edit according to this checklist.
On Wednesday, April 15th, I’ll be sharing my 18 and 1/2 ways to tackle those dreaded edits. I’ll include a handy checklist that you can print and use right away!