Friday 18 October 2019

Editing your novel

Image by Anne Karakash from Pixabay

So, the first draft of your novel is finished.  Now the editing starts.  I personally do one edit at a time. Perhaps this really proves that writing is mainly rewriting.

The three (+) stages of editing 

      The structural edit
      Writers’ techniques  / skills edit / technical edit
      The words
      The proof read
      Creative editing 

The structural edit

         Is the structure sound?
         Is the resolution satisfying?     
         Does the overall time-scale work? (You may have already planned a time structure into your novel but it is still worth checking that it is right.)
         Is this actually a young adult novel?
         Are characters consistent and rounded? Do they grow?
         Is there cause and effect?
         Is there tension and pace?   

Writers’ techniques

         Is the dialogue working correctly?
         Is there a narrative balance?
         Is the balance of showing and telling right?
         Are points of view consistent?
         Are the style and the voice consistent?    

The words

         Kill off your darlings
     Are they too good for the rest of you text?
     Can you match them?
     If all of the text is like this will it become too rich.   
         Get rid of  clichés
     Note clichés work – but you can say it even better
         Do a thorough copy edit
     Check every single word. Do you mean what you say and say what you mean? 
         Read out loud.
     You spot mistakes more easily
     You can test overall flow   

Proof read

         Normally this happens when the book is about to go off to the printer.
         Three people proof read:  the author, the editor and a professional proof-reader. 
         It saves your publisher a lot of time and money if you do this yourself before you send in your scrip.  Be warned though: they’ll still spot something.
         Professional proof readers use a special mark-up language. It’s useful to learn this.
         Many also now use track Changes in Microsoft Word. You should get used to this.    

Creative editing

         Look at one aspect at a time.
         Maybe change the font for each edit. (Don’t forget to change it back later.) 
         Start at a different point for each edit. (Some maths involved here.)
         Be aware of your own particular faults and look for those also.       

Getting help from critique groups

         You must be selective.
         Find one that specialises in what you write.  
         Will the group’s style suit you? Are they too laid back or too strict?
         Remember, you can learn as much by looking at other people’s work as by looking at your own.
         Works often sent out in advance so that you read it and prepare your comments before the meeting.  
         Be aware of developing a “house style”. Your group may have particular preferences.     
         Consider also an online group. 

Beta readers

  • This name comes from IT.
  • They meet the completed text only – gets away from house styles / over familiarity of group.
  • They might be other writers, target readers, or experts on your  theme or setting.
  • Six is perhaps a good number.
  • Allow them to comment on any aspect of your work regardless of why you have selected them.  
  • You could print a proof copy of your book to make it easier to read or you could turn it into a mobi-file so that your beat readers can read it on their Kindle.        

Paid editing

  • You pay someone to edit your work.  This can be very expensive.  
  • New editing companies and freelancers arrive all the time.  On the whole you get what you pay for. Some are very good. Some are less good. Always get references / endorsements.
  • They may be worth it if you keep getting rejections but critique groups and beta readers like your work.
  • They are probably essential if you want to self-publish.
  • Two further thoughts:
    • Is this a career path for you? Could you also become an editor?
    • Could you form a cooperative?  Writers edit each other’s’ work.     

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