Editing a novel is a dauntless task, and it’s easy to feel lost when surrounded by swarms of problems about your book. Is your writing any good? What about the story? Will the readers take you seriously? Are you too boring? Some people shut their novels away after finishing a rough draft because they have no idea how to make it better. It’s wrong to think your book is a lost cause. So how do you move forward? Here are seven questions to ask yourself when trying to determine what steps you should take when editing you novel.
1. Is there any part of this book that I hate? Chances are, there’s at least one section that you cringe when thinking about. You hated writing it and you hate the thought of editing it. Cut it out. If something in that part was necessary for your novel, move it somewhere else. At the very least go back and re-write it from scratch. The second attempt is always better than the first.
2. Am I being too cute? My husband recently called me out on this one, and it’s probably one of my biggest faults when writing. If there’s any part of your novel that makes you want to smile or laugh, cut it out. Crying’s a different matter–leave the parts that bring you to tears or give you shivers. But laughing aloud is a red flag, even if it’s a funny moment in the text. So are cheerful coincidences and good surprises. Steer away!
3. Is the first page awesome? Forget the rest of your novel for a moment and look at the first page. First impressions are a huge deal with any book! Do what you need to in order to create suspense, relatability, and literary deliciousness on your very first page.
4. Am I too proud of my writing? This is another huge fault of mine. When you were a kid, you probably remember your teacher telling you to write a description paragraph and fill it with adjectives and adverbs to pack in as much detail as possible. Here’s a big tip for you–it’s not how much detail, it’s what kind of detail that matters. You should be invisible to your readers. That means cutting out every paragraph that’s pure description and every word of flowery prose. Your readers will thank you.
5. Are my characters my clones? Your answer will probably be no, at first. But think about it. You might hate the idea of swearing yourself and hold yourself to strict standards, but does that mean your hero can’t swear either, despite his different background and worldview? Do your main characters share your own strengths and weaknesses? Don’t put yourself in your characters to make them more human. Take yourself out.
6. Where do people stop reading? When you read your book through, note where you put it down for a break. Ask your reviewers and critique-ers to do the same. People stop reading when the pace drops down too low for them to continue. Amp up those weak links, and that’s when your book becomes impossible to put down.
7. What’s this book about, anyway? Do you know what your novel is even about? If I gave you fifteen seconds to describe it to me, could you do it? How about ten seconds? If you can’t do that, then I advise spending some time away from your novel and thinking about what it really is about. That will give you a direction to revise toward.
Every editing experience is different, and you will probably have to do several run-throughs before you’re ready for submission or publication. What do you look for in your drafts? Please share in the comments below or submit all of your writing tips for inclusion in my new book here!