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.

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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.”

How to Start Writing

I often get asked by friends and fellow writers: How do you come up with an idea for a story?

While there are many ways of doing this, I’m going to share what works for me. Many times, I like to just sit down and write. I try to squeeze in times during the day, often only 10-30 minutes and write while I have available time. My main writing, however, is done at night.

I love the night because it is quiet. I’ll usually start around 9:30pm when everyone goes to bed and then write, off and on, till midnight. Some nights, I’ll write as late as 3 or 4am, depending on what type of groove I’m in. I’d realistically say that I write 2-3 hours per day with a minimum of 1 hour and a max of 5 hours.

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Regardless of how long you write, remember this: some writing is better than no writing.

If you can only spare 15 minutes, use that 15 minutes and know that every little bit adds up. It’s a lot like diet and exercise. Often, we don’t exercise as much as we’d like to but something is better than nothing.

I do like to write down big picture ideas for the novel I’m working on. I like having ideas to use as I’m writing and more times than not, what I initially wrote down changes from what I sit down and type. That’s okay, the important thing for me is that I have something to work from- a starting point. This helps me to not forget a good idea that may pop into my mind as well as think the overarching plot out in advance.

I also find it helpful to edit as I go. I’ll go over every chapter from the beginning after I finish each individual chapter. Then, I’ll go through every five chapters or so as a group so I make sure I’m keeping continuity. It also reminds me of the subtle details I inserted earlier and keeps things flowing nicely. Then, at the end, I go through the entire book 3-4 more times as a whole, taking time between each edit to let the book sit and breathe.

After all is said and done, it’s fair to say I’ve gone over the novel around 20 times. The most important thing you can do as a writer is to write. I’ve written so much crap that I’d be embarrassed for you to read it. Eventually, you’ll find what you were meant to write and then you’ll never stop.