Editing a novel is a bit like building a house. Brick by brick, bit by bit, word by word. There are so many methods, and different ways to do it. For me, I do it chapter by chapter, focusing on one at a time. This is the method that I use, I hope it can help some of you who may be looking for ideas. Please note, there’s no fixed rule, no right or wrong way to write a book. What works for some won’t always work for others.
Give it its own document
The first thing I do, is copy and paste the document from the draft and into it’s own document. This allows me to focus on that one particular scene. You don’t have to save all the chapters as individual files, I choose to paste mine into the next draft once I’ve edited it. But having it on its own makes it easier to work with.
Next, I just read it through. I don’t stop to fix typos, or add extra words. I just read it. I find it’s useful to refresh the memory on what happens in that scene/chapter, and take it all in without pausing.
Write down your initial thoughts
After the read through, write down your initial thoughts. These can be as simple or as in depth as you like. Write down what you liked and disliked about it. Write what you thought it was lacking, or what it had too much of. Write anything that comes to your mind after the read through.
Ask yourself 3 questions
Ask yourself the following three questions:
Is there a sense of place?
Can you see the characters?
Does the scene/chapter move the story forward?
These three questions are important to consider with each chapter. I discuss them in more depth in a separate blog post here.
Check for senses
Are you telling, instead of showing? You need to immerse the reader in each scene, and this means applying the five senses. Engulf the reader in the moment, by considering what the characters can see, smell, taste, feel and hear.
Read and highlight
Time for another read through, only this time, highlight as you go. For me, I highlight typos, weak sentences, things that don’t make sense, anything that is too vague, boring descriptions and words I want to change. I usually end up with a whole page of yellow highlight, which can be daunting, but also quite fun!
Make the changes
Go back to your highlights and make the necessary changes. This is where the real editing comes in. Make the changes, re-word the sentences, delete what’s not needed, add depth and descriptions.
Read through again
Once you’ve made the changes have another read through. Not only is it a second chance to spot mistakes, but it’s also a great moment when you see the difference you’ve made and how the chapter has developed.
I love the editing stage of writing, and I’m always keen for new tips and ideas. Share yours below.