A Complete Editorial Process for Novelists
Editing is sure to take the lifeblood from you. I think editing is how writers improve their craft most, but it is draining to review page after page of passive constructions and make sure character dialogue is consistent.
I just finished editing my dark, young adult fantasy novel. Here is my process and advice if you’re about to embark on an editing journey:
- Make sure you have all your structural elements: hook, inciting incident, plot beat 1, midpoint, plot beat 2, pre-climax, climax, and wrap-up (watch my video with Harry Potter examples if you’re not sure what these entail).
- Add more stakes. Make things scarier and more demanding for your characters in each scene. Increasing tension is a big deal!
- Read it aloud. You’ve probably heard this, but it really, really helps—even if you’re just mumbling it under your breath while your boyfriend studies in the same room, and you sound like a crazy person.
There were so many sentences that I thought were gorgeously written that turned out to be way too wordy, with confusing syntax. I had to hear it to believe it.
- Give each character something unique in dialogue. It’s nice to be able to differentiate your characters based on their speech. This is easy to do, scene by scene, during revision. Speech flair!
- Do a search for passive words and words that you use too much. Rewrite these sentences to be stronger, with better description.
In each chapter, I first search and replace: had, have, was, were, when, that, and because. (I mean, not every single instance—but most instances of these words)
Then I get rid of my crippling, over-used words: wonder (I seriously used “wonder” almost once per page), knew, seem, and felt.
There are many more words that some editors recommend nixing, but I’m pretty happy with this list.
- Send it to beta-readers! Their advice is gold. Make sure it’s not someone who will refrain from constructive feedback to spare your feelings.
- Lock it in a vault because you’re going to want to repeat these steps, and you’ll never end up writing anything else.
If you’re self-publishing, hire a professional editor.
Best of luck with editing! It really never ends, but it does get more manageable when you have a system!