So, I’m (hopefully) in the final drafts of my first finished novel! It’s taken a while to get right, and it’s only now as I edit my last piece that I’m starting to think that it could be good enough!
I went through the motion a while back of thinking that my story was boring and didn’t have enough depth,or that people wouldn’t have the same love of the characters as I do, but this last edit has been so revealing and I’ve developed things I never thought I would develop, and even some of my characters have surprised me! (One of them made me cry…)
I’ve learned a lot about editing whilst doing it and can honestly say that the time varies. It can take three drafts to complete or it can take nine (mine leaning towards the latter), it all depends on the holes in your plot and your characters and whether or not writers block comes to visit.
The following are just some tips I’ve learned whilst editing, and some tips from the writersdigest and creativepen that I think really help:
- Let the manuscript rest
I think this tip is the most important! Once you’ve finished writing your book, take a break from it and don’t go straight in to editing. Stephen King does it and just look at the wonders he creates! Go away from it. Maybe start a new novel, write some short stories, develop some ideas or do all the things you haven’t done yet because you spent all your spare time writing! You will come back with a clear head and be able to see all those plot holes and problems you didn’t see when you wrote it first, and you’ll be able to make it more cohesive.
- Try and print out your manuscript
I know for some, this can be hard, but if you have access to a printer whether it be at home or at a library, printing out your manuscript makes it easier to read. It also allows you to write edits down on the page and means you can use sticky tabs, washi tapes or highlighters to make it easier for you to distinguish chapters or viewpoints etc.
My current piece has two places it takes part in, and to make sure I even out the chapters right and don’t have too many chapters from the same place one after each other, each of the corners have washi tapes to help me distinguish my adventurous group from my homebodies.
- Using Word processors to edit
For those who can’t print it out, Word processors have track changes and the ability to highlight and add comments! Most word processors also have the ability to find typos and spelling mistakes, and you can easily use find and replace to change place names or character names, or replace those typos you find littering your words when you really were in the moment!
Also, some advice when you come to editing, it’s so much easier to keep it all on one file, and have a page between the chapters. It can easily look like a load of paragraphs as you scroll down without any proper breaks between them!
- Take breaks
Remember to take breaks when you edit, keep yourself fueled and hydrated and give your mind a rest every now and then. You could watch a movie, a TV show, read a book, play a game, just distract yourself for a bit. Too much editing all at once can make you doubt what you’ve written even more, when really, it’s absolutely fine!
- Find your place to edit
Find our the best place for you to edit. Sometimes I switch between the busyness of my downstairs and then the quietness of my bedroom. I become so engrossed in my story sometimes that it doesn’t matter if I have the TV on in the background, or the hustle and bustle of home life happening around me, but its different for every person.
For some, they have to be out of their house, sat in a cafe or a pub, and for others, they need to sit in their bedroom or office!
- Keep a writing journal, spare paper or folder handy
Sometimes an idea will strike you as you edit one chapter for another chapter later down the line, or maybe you’ve changed something that will effect a later chapter. It’s always handy to have a notebook with you, and keep all your notes in one place.
- Let someone else read it
It could be beta readers, or it could be your mum. It gives you an insight in to how someone else might take it, and be ready for any criticism their probably going to give you!
- Be original
Don’t write like J.K Rowling, or George R.R. Martin, write like you! It gives the reader world something new because no one writes like you do.
And watch your prose, sometimes your style can overwhelm your content. Sometimes words can be too beautiful. An author called Georges Simeon once said whilst reading a piece “That’s a beautiful sentence, cut it”
- Character development
Make sure all of your characters have a bit of depth to them and try and show that their three dimensional people. A great tip I’ve found is to write the characters back story, you could write about where they were born, who their relatives are, about what they like and dislike.
Even without writing it in your story, if you have better knowledge on what happened to your characters before, it can show in your writing and help you with developing your characters once you start editing.
- Don’t be afraid
Look at editing as colouring a picture you drew. You can colour it however you like, you can add bits and you can erase bits, and, if you need to re-write a whole chapter, or add another, do it! Even in my final drafts, I’ve added new chapters. Half way through my editing process, I added a whole new story that I had to integrate with my old one, making sure that all the chapters slotted into place.
Don’t ever worry about how many drafts it takes you to get it right. Sometimes first drafts can be near perfect and others far from it. Writing a novel is the easiest part, it’s all the things that come after your first draft that make you want to pull your hair out!