Once upon a time, back in August of 2014, I’d finished writing my novel. It was done! All I had left was editing and then I could start querying! I started researching the query letter (the Query Shark rocks!) when I was away from my manuscript and couldn’t edit. I figured the hard part was done, all I had left was to polish it up.
Here I am, 2 years later, with 2 revisions and 4 new drafts under my belt. In that time, I’ve learned so much. What I revise now, I never could have done when I started.
Well, that’s about the same. Luckily, as writers, we don’t have to stop with the first draft.
5 Big Things I’ve Learned About Editing
The 3 main types of editing:
When you first start to edit your novel, if you’re like me, you’re trying to make it legible and entertaining. Looking for all your typos and bad commas. That’s not a bad place to start, but that’s not all there is to know about editing.
Type 1: Developmental editing –
- Your world and characters need depth. They need to be more than just stereotypes or 2-dimensional characters.
Type 2: Structural editing –
- How do the plot and action flow?
- If there are chapters where nothing happens, do you need them?
- Does everything in the story make sense and follow what’s happened before?
- Are there hints so even the unexpected makes sense–in retrospect?
Type 3: Line edits –
- The editing most people think of.
- Misspellings, commas, and awkward phrasing.
- Places where you tell, instead of show.
- All the little rules you can learn and checklists.
- The editing most people think of.
You Can Ignore Edits
Just because you’ve got 1 million comments on your manuscript doesn’t mean you have to make 1 million changes.
Reasons I Ignore An Edit:
- It’s dialogue and that’s how my character speaks
- For stylistic reasons
- Because the editor doesn’t know [X], which explains why [Y] needs to be in there
- ONE critique partner/beta reader got confused, but everyone else seems to grok* it perfectly fine
Waiting Before You Edit Helps
If you’re like me, you:
- read this advice 100 times
- wrote your rough draft
- edited less than 2 weeks after you finished
However, I’m older and wiser than I was when I finished my first
shiny ugly draft. Now I know I can indeed edit immediately… line edits. I can make my story clearer and fix all the spelling errors and half the comma errors and get confused on the semi-colon vs em dash errors…
You know what I can’t do? Revise.
It took 4 rounds of edits, in which only 2 actually contained revisions (type 1 and 2 edits), for me to actually get my novel in decent shape. The flow is better, the last couple of chapters had to be rewritten–again.
Editing Techniques to Try
I learned I can do copy edits and flow best on paper. Other edits, I can be at the computer. The hard part? I can’t edit without either my stack of paper or at a computer. I could write on my phone, riding shotgun. I can’t even have music when I’m editing, because I’m too distractable. But everyone is different.
- With a small font and some highlighters, you can see the rhythm of your story, from the extreme macro-level.
- 25 steps I can’t summarize.
- Print it out, take notes of things you missed, things you made up. Plus, multicolored pens.
- Exactly what it says
- Outline your chapters, then rate the exitement level, and chart it!
- Examine the chart and see if you’re following the 3-act structure.
You’re Never Truly Done**
*Grok means to understand on a visceral level. (From Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land)
**You just reach a point where you deem it: Good Enough!
NOTE: You know what’s ironic? When you mis-schedule a draft post for Wednesday instead of Thursday, so your readers see the draft before you’ve finished editing it…while writing a post on editing. Luckily, those of you who saw this early liked it. Hopefully, you’ll like it better in all it’s planned glory!