I love editing. For me as a writer, it’s where the magic of writing happens. It’s when your first rough draft becomes the story you really want to share with the world. We’re all under pressure to get the job done and move onto our next project, but taking some time out to focus on editing your book [short story, poem, play, etc,] will save you from a lot of heartache, if your work is rejected because it needs more editing.
Patience is the key to good editing. Taking your time to think about what you want your story to say to the reader. What’s at the heart of the piece. Are you showing enough, rather than telling. Are you immersing your reader into your plot. What will they remember most? Are your characters developed enough? Is the setting well-drawn? Will the story make them feel happy, sad, scared etc. Is there enough action to keep them turning the pages. These are some of the things you need to think about while editing. Make sure there isn’t any unnecessary description or long-winded dialogue which might kill the flow of the story.
Before you start work on editing your manuscript the most important thing is to take a break from the piece. You need to clear your mind, and put on your editor’s hat to look at it with fresh eyes. I suggest either work on another piece of writing, do some gardening, housework, or go on holiday. Anything that can help you empty your mind of the piece you’re wanting to edit.
For me, I don’t like to focus too much on the opening chapter when first editing my manuscript. The opening paragraph is the most important paragraph in your book, (story, poem, play, etc). This is the hook which will grab your reader and keep them turning the pages. It needs to be a powerful opening line or paragraph. You need to create a question in the reader’s mind which will drive them to continue reading as they seek out the answer. Of course, as the reader finds one answer you’ve already created a series of questions and answers along the way that makes your book into a page turner. To really be able to create a brilliant opening chapter you need to know your story inside out first.
Starting with your second chapter check for overused crutch words and phrases. Keep in mind the series of questions I’ve already spoken about by asking yourself whether each sentence is saying what you want it to say. Does it makes sense? Does it carry the plot forward? Are you writing in the right tenses? Are you listening to your characters? Are they interacting with the plot, setting, each other in an intriguing and realistic manner? Are they either necessary to the plot?
I find reading three chapters ahead and then going back over them sentence by sentence, stripping out anything which is repeated information helps to bring clarity and consistency to the manuscript. Strip out unnecessary words too. Are you telling your reader things they already know? If a character is to sit down, the reader knows to sit the character must go down. Like wise to stand up a character needs to be upright. So you can lose the words up and down. Think about this as you work your way through the whole novel. Are you telling your reader something they don’t need to know. Think about losing the obvious. If your character is sitting and you want them to cross to the window. Don’t say: James stood up and walked across to the window. Your reader already knows for James to reach the window he has to stand up in order to walk. Therefore it is better to say James crossed to the window Unless, of course, your character is in a wheelchair, but you would have already shown your reader this.
Once you have gone through your whole manuscript a few times. This is when you need to check that your opening paragraph is as strong as you can make it to hook your reader. Once your reader is hooked, you’ll need to deliver an outstanding last chapter. After all, you’ll want the reader to reach for your next book.
It’s important to remember editing is seldom a one-step process. This means to take your rough draft and turn it into a finish, well-polished manuscript you’ll need to read through it multiple times when editing. This is when I use a feature on Microsoft Word that reads my document to me. If you don’t already have it on your computer, it’s very easy to set up. I’ve created a video below to show you how to do it for yourself. I found it speeded up my editing process and helps me find the clunky sentences too.
I hope you found this interesting and helpful.
Have fun editing.