The Final Draft – Some Editing Tips!

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.

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  • 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!

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My Writing Journey So Far…

This piece is an insight in to some writing projects I did as a kid and my main WIP, which I am on the cusp of finishing.

I have been writing stories ever since I was small. It was a way for me to escape and create, and even though my childhood wasn’t terrible, I never really had many friends, so I guess, spent my days writing about all the adventures I wanted to go on.

My first big project, from what I can remember, was a series of short stories on ‘The Adventures of Taffy and Friends’. It was handwritten with ‘lovely’ illustrations by my younger self and based on my old German shepherd. I think it’s what cemented my way in to writing.

I also made some little picture books on the story of a saber-tooth cat and his family.

The next big project I would undertake, was a 52? page book about me living on a farm and showing horses. It was called Show Girl, and it was followed by another two books of a similar size. I’ve never ridden a horse before, so I have no idea where the idea came from.

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Just before I started writing this, we had just got internet for the first time, and I was fascinated by being able to google photos of anything and slot them in to my story. However, when I look back at it now, I cringe. I also remember my Nan falling asleep while reading it. I don’t know if it was just old lady syndrome, or if it was just really terrible.

It’s very obvious that I was a girl going in to teen-hood whilst writing this. Some of the scenes are so bad, and so unrealistic, I don’t know what I was thinking…

Since then, I’ve moved on to things I hope I will not be so scared about showing another human being. I’ve wrote some short stories, and wrote some first chapters for some novels, but my next big project would be something that I still work on to this day, even if my main WIP takes over most of the time. I think I started writing what I ended up calling ‘The Banished Series’ in late 2006/early 2007.

I remember that at the time, life was really hard and loads of stuff was happening. I wasn’t happy and I needed something to get my mind off of all the bad. So, I looked up at my bedroom ceiling and I asked for an idea. Low and behold, a dream came to me and I was able to turn it in to a novel. I wrote drafts of two books and outlined the third, and even though it’s not finished yet, it gave me that escape that I needed. It’s something I’ll go back to, but more because I want to know how the story goes than anything.

My present WIP, ‘Tales’, I’ve been working on for about six, maybe seven years now. It all started with an idea I got whilst playing Skyrim and my character was stood there, sucking up the soul of a dragon. I’ve always loved olden day games (Fable is my favourite), so I thought I’d give it a crack at writing a story based in medieval times, which over time has turned in to so much more. In the last few months alone, I’ve incorporated qualities from Celts, Saxons, Vikings and Romans.

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Its unbelievable how much it’s changed over the last six years. It’s had a few name changes, a few people killed and brought back to life, a few people killed that I hadn’t intended to kill at all, and I’ve learnt so much about writing that I think it may be the first one that I could give to the world to read.

I know six years may seem like a long time, but as always, life get’s in the way. I had school, college, university, and grown-up stuff to do like going to work and worrying about bills, but it was also because I wasn’t in a rush to finish it. My life was a bit too all over the place and full of drama to be able to do anything with it if I did.

My WIP is a series that has been outlined in to approximately five books, with the first novel having been through seven drafts and the second being on it’s first. I’ve also got future scenes jotted down in my journal and on various pieces of paper here, there and everywhere.

I’ve went through many styles of writing, with the one now being the one I think I’ll stick too. I’m not an overly descriptive writer, I don’t think. I like to get to the point and not ramble (which I realise I have done a lot of here, but it isn’t a book, so it’s okay); but keep a bit of mystery in there as well. I like my characters to be just as confused as the reader.

The most important thing I’ve learnt, other than my style, is that I shouldn’t limit myself to my main WIP. If an idea strikes me for another novel or a short story, I’ll take time out to write it a bit, even if it’s just an outline so I can go back to it later. I find writing other things, whether it’s a piece inspired by a prompt, a blog post on your favourite thing or a baking recipe, it all helps you develop your style and gives you a break, meaning writers block doesn’t come as easily. I’ve found that having a writing journal handy works well for me, and even though I have a make-shift index page at the front, I just use sticky tabs to make the mess easier to navigate.

Maybe in the last year or so, writing took a step back. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to do it, but more because my life was so hectic, with work, university and family issues, that I needed time for other things. But now, I’m back in my rhythm again and I feel like I’m actually getting somewhere.

Although, at one point, I did almost give up because I lost about sixty pages worth of story because I didn’t press the save button. It happened a second time, but atleast I was only editing this time.

For me, I think my worst fear is it not being good enough. Which I think might stop a lot of authors in their tracks, but you never know, there might be someone out there waiting to read a book just like yours, and one smile is better than nothing.

I’m currently on the cusp of finishing my final draft of the first book, and now I finally have a grasp on how I want the series to flow and sound, I think the next few won’t take so long. It’s a been a very long learning curve, but I think I needed it.

Maybe in a couple months, I’ll be able to write a blog post saying that I’ve finally submitted my novel to a literary agent or publisher, and be able to tell you about all the trouble I had writing the synopsis and cover letters, because, I think, that’ll be harder than writing the book itself.

🙂