I remember when I was a kid and I played tennis for the first time. I was already a very good baseball player and could play a little football and basketball too. Tennis, however, took me quite some time to figure out. My brother Adam is 5 years older than me and when I was 12, my 17-year old brother pretty much dominated me at everything.
I’ll never forget the time that I was just an annoying 14-year old who persevered and finally beat my older brother in tennis. It was one of the greatest accomplishments of my young life and one that I still consider to be a goal that I fought tremendously hard for. I worked my ass off to beat him and the end result was well worth all the defeat I had to endure prior to that glorious day.
Writing is similar to learning how to play a sport. It’s difficult at first but with hard work and practice, you can become great. When you sit down and write, your first draft should be lacking, to say the least. Many times, it will just plain suck. You’ll read it again and think to yourself, “What in the world was I thinking?”
Anyone can write but only the diligent can edit. Editing can be excruciating and mundane at times but it is necessary.
It’s not optional.
You will need to edit, rewrite, and then do it all over again, many times. So, don’t worry about your writing not being any good. Instead, keep working and keep writing. The only thing stopping you is you.
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.
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.”