Writing Wednesdays: Advice on editing your novel

So you finished your novel! Amazing news! Next step: EDITING. I share my advice on how to go about editing your novel in this post.

You might be writing a book you’re hoping to publish, or you might be sharing it online. But either way, you’ll likely want to edit it.

Do you ever read back over something you’ve written and see loads of things you want to change? Either you want to make more of a side character, or you want to develop an aspect of the protagonist’s personality, or maybe you notice a few grammatical errors or typos you want to change.

Well, this post is hopefully going to give you some advice on editing your own work.

For more advice, check out Olivia Levez’s guest Writing Wednesday post on editing your book here.

1. Step away from the book.

That’s right, just walk away from it for a little while. 

You could either do this when you’ve hit a serious writer’s block, or when you’re just in the mood to fix up the book rather than write it, or when you’ve finished the book. 

I like to leave editing until I’ve finished the book, but that might not work for you. If you’re at a point where you want to edit, then the most important thing you can do is leave the story alone for a few days, or a week, at least, before going back to edit. 

When you go back to it, your mind will be a bit clearer and you’ll be looking at it with fresh eyes. It’ll be easier for you to pick up on things that aren’t quite right.

2. Wait until you finish the whole book.

If you’re halfway through writing your book and know that you want to go back through and change things, don’t. 

Just carry on. It’ll be easier to edit the whole thing, because your consistency will be better that way. 

Editing one chapter at a time can be the easiest way to do it, because you can break the book down into small chunks and it becomes less of an impossible feat.

3. Make notes.

I’ve recently started making notes on my characters as I go along when writing a book - I note anything I write about their personality or family or appearance, even the condition of their school backpack. 

As you’re editing, find a notebook and make notes of these kind of things. It might be that in chapter one you mention that they have a cat - but the cat never appears the rest of the book because you forgot about it. 

Then you have two options: write in more of the cat, or delete the cat from the story altogether. Little things like that matter.

You might also like this post on how to deal with the second draft of your novel.

4. Pretend you’ve never seen it before.

Okay, maybe this should’ve been higher up the list - it’s important. It helps. Pretend that you’ve never seen your book before and that’s you’re reading it from the perspective of a reader, not a writer. 

How would you make it different? What could make it better? Could that character be developed any more? Is there some backstory you’d love to read about but that’s not written in? 

In my book The Kissing Booth, the main character has dark skin. She’s not Caucasian. I know that - she’s my character. But I somehow managed to miss it from the book. When I was reading, I had a clear idea of how she looked, but never noticed that it didn’t actually say in the book that she wasn’t Caucasian. 

LOOK FOR THINGS LIKE THAT. As a writer, you’ll know your characters inside and out - but remember, your readers won’t. What have you missed out that you want them to know?

5. Be brutal and be ruthless and don’t be sentimental.

Sometimes, things need to go. Including that 4,000 word chapter you are incredibly proud of and love but that doesn’t add anything to a story that’s already too long. Sometimes that 4,000 word fabulous chapter will need to go. 

If it’s not working with the story and isn’t necessary, then you might be able to cut it out. And you might have to do that. Don’t be sentimental about it.

I cut out a huge plot point of the original draft of The Kissing Booth when I edited it because it just wasn’t working. It was too over-the-top and no amount of rewriting made it work, so I got rid of it - and I felt much better about the book for it. Sacrifices will need to be made in your book. And you may need to be ruthless about it.

Hopefully you’ve found at least one of these tips useful. I know it can be pretty tough trying to edit your own work, but it can really pay off. Not only will it give you a better book, but it’ll help you improve as a writer, because you’ll pick up on where you’re going wrong.

In July 2015, during my month of Writing Wednesday posts by guest authors, Olivia Levez wrote this post with some more advice on editing your book which is super helpful and you should definitely check it out.

What's your editing process? Is there anything you struggle with? Share in the comments!

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