How to Edit a Novel

Writing a novel can be a daunting task but editing one can be even more challenging. If you’re like me, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed at all the different phases of editing involved with writing a quality novel. These can’t be overlooked, however, as the editing process makes a novel.

So, let’s look at a few of the steps involved that may help you as you are writing and editing.

  • Edit as you go: As you are writing, edit each chapter before beginning the next one for spelling/grammar mistakes as well as plot errors. It’s much easier to catch these as you go rather than sorting them all out after you’ve written 80,000 words.
  • Edit the book in blocks: Let’s say you have twenty-five chapters in your novel. After you finish five chapters, go back and edit those five. When you finish ten chapters, go back to the beginning and edit it all over again. Do this throughout the entire book. That’s a lot of work you say? It’s worth it. You will get to know your novel better than your spouse and the finished product (and your readers) will thank you.
  • Find other eyes: Gather a group of friends/other writers who are willing to read your book and offer you constructive criticism. Then, take that feedback and make your novel better. You must have thick skin and if you don’t, writing probably isn’t for you. I’ve received harsh feedback from a few people and it helped me more than anything else. I had to rewrite the first chapter of THE EARTH BLEEDS RED at least twenty times (no exaggeration) based on feedback from a few of my editor friends.
  • Forget about it: After you finish the book, let it sit for five to ten days. Then, go back and start all over from the beginning. This will tell you if you really have a winner or if it still needs work. Don’t get discouraged if it still needs work. Anything worthwhile takes time so be encouraged that your hard work will pay off.
  • Read it out loud: This one is pretty self-explanatory. Reading the book out loud will surprise you at how different it sounds compared to what you’ve been reading inside your head for so long. I read out loud to my wife and my oldest daughter. It helps me change dialogue and other scenes when they don’t feel natural.

jackson baer, jackson paul baer, the earth bleeds red, pandamoon publishing, what the hell, literary fiction, suspense, mystery, compelling fiction, new author, joyce carol oates, junot diaz, sherman alexie, novel with a twist, corvallis, books set in oregon, suspense novel, mystery novel, lit fiction, the lights will never fade, what the hell book

This list is not all-inclusive but I hope that it will help you when it comes to editing your novel. Happy writing and happy editing! Oh, and don’t forget what Ernest Hemingway once said: “Write drunk; edit sober.”

6 thoughts on “How to Edit a Novel

  1. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve edited chapters 1 & 4 of my novel – they’re the ones that seemed to need the most work – based on feedback I received from various sources. But I really feel like that feedback has been some of the most valuable feedback I’ve had. Some of it, though, I needed to wait several months before I was able to process it all and agree needed to be changed.

  2. Hi Jackson! Forget about it, is basically my method of self editing. When I’m in the zone and completely inspired I don’t want to stop to check my spelling and grammar. I rather finish my first draft and then go over the entire story from the beginning. That’s what works for me. 😀

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