Congrats! You finally finished that first draft. The mountain you thought you could never climb is finally conquered. Even though you cried about half the time, your tears were not in vain. And, most importantly, you didn’t quit! 🙂
As I mentioned in the previous “Let’s Write a Novel” post, your first draft isn’t going to be the best. It doesn’t have to be! That’s what this next phase is for, editing. And that is what I am covering today!
DISCLAIMER! You can get an editor to check over your work. They can be pricey, but I am fortunate that my cousin-in-law has an English degree. So she has been my editor.
This is the way I have been editing my novel Purpose, so feel free to adjust to what fits you the best! I feel that focusing on one aspect of the content with each edit makes it a higher quality than trying to do everything at once. So Enjoy! 😀
BEFORE you get your hands dirty, give yourself a break. I took a 2 week break. Trust me, it may be difficult, but it gives you a pair of fresh eyes to look at your work. I spent that time outlining my next 2 books in the trilogy, working on questions for my Beta Readers, and the Blurb for Purpose. That took about 2 weeks or so.
Now that you’ve taken a break, it’s time to get going on the least fun part of writing. With the first edit, I read the entire book, chapter by chapter, searching for grammatical and spelling errors. These are difficult to find, especially when you know what you want to say. You may have doubled a word or forgot a comma. Perhaps you meant to say clothes and typed cloths… or he instead of the. Errors like this may completely miss your careful combing, but it will stick out to readers. And if you are a stickler for good grammar as a reader, then you may put a book down if it contains errors like these. Hold yourself to as high of a standard that you hold other authors.
The easiest way to edit for grammatical and spelling errors is by taking each paragraph separately. First, start with the last sentence of the paragraph and read it out loud. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are there any words that are misspelled that Spell Check did not catch?
- Does the grammar make sense? Are you consistently using the Oxford Comma or not?
- Does the dialogue make sense and sound natural?
Why edit from the last sentence of each paragraph first? It makes it easier to catch mistakes when you aren’t reading the sentences how they are meant to sound. It also keeps you from doing content edits or prose edits which comes later.
Once you’ve fixed up the grammar and spelling, time to move onto the content. Keep an eye out for the following things:
- Flow (NOT to be confused with Prose – which is the 3rd edit) – Do any sentences end abruptly? Are there unintentional run-on sentences? Any unintentional fragments?
- Do the paragraphs make sense in the order they are written?
- Do the chapters make sense in the order they are written?
- Do the chapters convey the outline well?
- Are there any outlying chapters/paragraphs/sentences that need to be removed?
- Are there chapters/paragraphs/sentences that need to be added?
- How are your descriptions of settings, characters, etc? Do you need to add or remove any content there?
DON’T worry about having to delete things. I know that this novel is your baby and you have watched it grow up and graduate school, 🙂 but you want it to be the best novel that it can be. Sometimes, in order to reach it’s full potential, things have to be taken out.
To me, this is the most important edit. The “Prose” edit. The definition of Prose is “written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.” However, we are going to edit for metrical structure here as well. And yes, you can do both.
Now, you are going through each of the remaining chapters and checking for more than just flow. Metrical structure, or the tempo of the words/sentences/paragraphs, are used to convey the mood of the scene. Is the protagonist and antagonist fighting? Then you want short sentences to convey the quick blows from either side. Having a long, run-on, descriptive sentence here wouldn’t make sense. On the other hand, if the character is meditating in nature (for example), then you would want a more poetic, descriptive, feel to the paragraph.
As for prose, you want to focus on how the paragraph sounds as a whole. Are you using the best word placement for the sentence? Should any words be changed to something more or less descriptive. Is the structure correct?
Once you’ve done these 3 edits, feel free to read through again if you want to see how everything turns out. It’s really up to you how many times you want to go through it! Good luck with this step. It is arduous! It takes time! And it is not as glamorous as writing the draft, but it has to be done and it is a crucial part of the process.
**Another quick note. If you do decide to hire an editor, remember that you do not have to make every change that they suggest. They may not know why your character does a specific action or the purpose of a specific scene. You may be adding in bits of foreshadowing. Whatever the reason, don’t feel like you have to make every edit that they offer. They understand!** 🙂
And don’t forget. KEEP WRITING