Article on editing your novel with some does and don'ts.
I had fun trying to come up with a title that reflects what I personally experience in editing. How many of you actually edit your novel as if you were reviewing it for a book report for an English class?
Step one: Go looking for grammar, periods, capitalization, and miss spelled words. This is what we consider real editing and you must do this for any rough draft. You will find it makes all the other editing go faster if you are not having to keep correcting this. This should always be your step one or first edit to any rough draft.
Now that we have the first edit done. What comes next? Next is my novel shake down or step two the second edit. I look for and resolve the following set of common issues.
1. Did I accurately stick to my plot outline? If not, where does it go and in what direction? (Do I love this different direction? Or do I need to fix it and get it back on track?)
2. Does my plot feel real to my reader?
3. Do all of my plot scenes create sufficient conflict? (Or, does any of my conflicts feel forced or fake?)
4. Do my contention scenes in the story create sufficient internal conflict?
5. Did I resolve all of the conflict, whether internal or external?
6. Is my protagonist the kind of person I can join with or find interesting? Are his/her motivations clear and can the reader relate to them?
7. Are my antagonist’s motivations clear and justified by his character?
8. Did I leave any “loaded guns” that didn’t go off?
9. Do my characters make any decisions or take any actions that are not of their natures?
10. Is my story line clear?
11. Does the story as written make sense to me and my inner reader?
12. Are there any discernible plot holes in the story?
13. Do my subplots work and not cause confusion to the main plot?
Now that I have answered all those questions. I fix and resolve those issues I found. After taking a break for a day or three. I settle in for my third edit. Here I look at the structure of the story itself since I am happy with the characters and plot lines.
1. Am I too descriptive in my scenes?
2. Do I enhance my story with my character’s dialogs?
3. Am I adding in any extra dialog that could be shown more than told?
4. Does the story read fast or slow?
5. Have I made good use of cliffhangers to keep the reader going from chapter to chapter?
6. Is my flow fast and keeping the reader engaged with my story?
7. Does the overall book’s theme stay with the story line?
8. Do my secondary characters keep the mood and atmosphere in each scene?
Now I feel ready to do my final draft. I still take time off and go write something else for a day or two. Sometimes it helps to do something entirely different like playing games or going camping to get your mind off the story so you can come back to polish it with a fresh eye. One other trick I use is to read something else that is not in the genre that I just wrote my novel in.
The last and final edit is where you polish it where you feel you are ready to allow someone else to read it and see what you missed. This way you can get feedback on it, to see what you missed, take notes and revamp your editing list, and it gives you a chance to polish it up some more.You need this to get it where your mind, muse, and feelings keep telling you that it should be.
This is the system I follow on all my novels. Some of these may seem redundant or even extra added steps. This is what I follow because it is based on my past mistakes and my own writing style. You can edit this to make it what you want as a reminder of what you want to look for during your editing. After all, none of us are alike, so your writing is not like mine. So my reminders may not work for you. But I do hope they give you a good guideline to use or modify to complete your book and make it the number one top seller in its genre.
The reason I use this long three step process is I am not going to keep polishing it forever. If after the third and final edit I still don’t feel right about it. I get some more reviews if they are favorable then I sell it. If they are not, then it is time to take a break from it and write the next novel. Once a few months have gone by, take it out of storage, review the novel, and you will find out why you didn’t feel right about it. After a little more polishing on it, now you can sell it.