Get Ready to Edit the First Draft
Every year in November, along with millions of others, I write the first draft of a novel during NaNoWriMo. For nearly a decade, I have not failed to write at least the first 50 thousand words of a new novel in my Locket Saga series. I currently have four unfinished novels sitting in computer folders waiting for editing and proofing. I have three or four books that I would like to write into this series before I will consider this fiction project complete, but I did decide to put The Locket Saga aside to work on another more contemporary novel (I’ll discuss more about this novel throughout this blogging series.)
In addition to writing my novels, I also have several nonfiction books that I have written and are in various stages of writing. During this next year, one of my major goals is to write and edit the final drafts of these books and send them to my editor.
Since finishing my most recent first draft at the end of November, I spent December focusing on other things like the holidays and what I am going to do during this next year in various aspects of my publishing business. Now that the new year is here, I am ready to focus on editing.
If you have written your first novel in NaNoWriMo, before you even start editing, congratulate yourself. You finished the first leg of the journey from book idea to finished manuscript. You’ve developed the world where your story takes place. You’ve figured out what story you wanted to tell, and you have gotten to know your characters. Pat yourself on the back. You’ve done a lot of work in a short period of time.
Now that you’ve patted yourself on the back, it’s time to get back to work.
The Editing Process
Editing a book that is fit for publication is probably more important than writing a first draft.
You can edit a book yourself or you could get others to help you edit it for you.
The editing process essentially occurs in three steps. One—Content editing Two—Line Editing Three—proofreading.
A writer could spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars getting someone else to content edit, line edit or even ghostwrite their books for them. It doesn’t have to be that way. Authors can and should learn to edit their own work to the best of their ability before sending the book off to have someone else edit their work for them.
Beginning today, I am writing a year-long blog series about how to edit a book from first draft to finished manuscript. For the next twelve months, I will be sharing my knowledge about how to edit your fiction book manuscript to perfection. Even if you are a complete novice, by the end of this year, you will have a novel that is ready to send to a professional editor or agent or publisher without spending thousands of dollars letting someone else do the work (and perhaps not even as well).
The Basic Stages of Editing
Basically, three stages exist in book editing. Those are content editing, line editing, and proofreading.
Content editing includes aspects of novel writing in which you work on developing the story line, the characters, both internal and external dialogue, maintaining point of view, developing the scenes, and tighten up the action. It also includes developing pace.
Line editing includes aspects of novel writing in which you work on paragraph and sentence flow and do final fact checking.
Proofreading should be done last. It doesn’t hurt to do regular spell/grammar checking using a built-in computer program after each editing session, but it’s not wise to spend more than a couple minutes every day at the end of each session over what you edited that day.
It’s important to start editing in the proper order. It would be foolish to proofread at the beginning of the editing process because more than likely you’ll be wasting your time. Imagine proofreading huge passages and deciding later that you want to get rid of that entire section of text. By proofreading too early in the process, you will have potentially wasted hours of valuable time that you could have spent working on improving the rest of the book.
Now that you know editing order, let’s get started.
The First Step in the Editing Process
The first step in the content editing process is to read through your manuscript. However, if you wrote your manuscript on paper rather than on a computer, your manuscript should first be typed out on a computer document before continuing the editing process.
You may want to print out your first draft onto paper, so you can read it more easily as you highlight. I never do this. Instead, I change fonts and font size to give me a different perspective. I like to use “Arial” because it is more like a handwritten manuscript, and it is easier to read.
Just read through the first time, making notes of obvious errors that you see as you’re reading so that you can fix them later.
After you have read through the manuscript this first time, look for the main story line and highlight it in yellow.
Read it again and do the same with other secondary story lines and highlight those as well, but in different colors. Note what story line goes with what color and write a brief description on this chart about each story line. You may need to read through the manuscript several more times before you find all your story lines.
This step is important because in the upcoming weeks, we will be revisiting each of these story lines to evaluate the storyline to determine its value to the overall story, its ARC, character ARCs and scene ARCs. Next week we will be discussing story ARCs and how important they are toward constructing a cohesive novel with no major story content errors. If you locate all the story lines that you have created within your novel this week, you’ll have a good start to your editing process and will be ready to quickly develop your story’s ARCs next week.
Get Your Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist
This is the first post in a series of blog posts about how to edit your novel. If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series.