Editing a work in progress, a partially finished novel or a finished manuscript is not an easy task. However, it has become a necessary task for every writer. It doesn’t matter whether you are a published author, because you are raising the bar for yourself with every book, which means your work needs to be polished until it shines. The same applies to unpublished writers that want to get published the traditional way – the better your manuscript the bigger your chances of landing an agent and a contract. And it is probably the most important task for self-published writers, because the readers will expect a novel that looks polished and professional, and they have an eye for it – you’ve probably seen a lot of reviews on other novels where the reviewer has commented that the novel needed a “bit more editing.” This is why we have gathered the major types of editing and how you can use them to ensure your new novel will be the best version it can be.
1. Chapter level
On the first round of editing, you should focus on your book as a whole, while going through it chapter by chapter. Here, you’re focusing on the big picture – and take a critical look at the plot, the structure, the pacing. This is the phase where you shouldn’t be afraid to take a risk and change a substantial part of the novel (if you believe it isn’t working, of course). The change can come in many shapes or forms – from rewriting a particular plot line, to adding characters, backstory, and even writing a whole new draft based on the previous, but with many improvements. This can take a lot of time, true, but the result will be worth it, because you will have a manuscript that is ready for the next phase in the editing process.
2. Scene level
During this phase you should focus on scenes. You can go page by page, instead of chapter by chapter. But, you need to focus on characterization – do your characters have motives, goals, and do they take actions that initiate conflict (within themselves, or with other characters)? Remember, a scene cannot be a scene unless one character wants to get something, has a goal that they have to fulfill, no matter how small. Do your characters act consistently throughout every scene, or do they seem to change their opinions easily? If they do, you need to add something, change the order of some scenes (within the laws of cause and effect, of course) to ensure that every character stays true to their character, consistently throughout your novel.
3. Paragraph level
In the third phase, you need to focus on the paragraphs. Are you in the middle of an action scene, where the pace is usually fast, but you’ve gone off on a tangent and written a long, descriptive paragraph that slows things down? Do you have any awkward phrases that don’t seem to work right? If you do, you should rewrite them and try to keep the pace consistent, and make your phrases sound normal. Another thing you need to pay attention at this stage is the level of “showing” versus “telling.” Showing is always better; unless the paragraph or the scene as a whole requires it.
4. Sentence level
You can go through this phase at the same time as the previous one. This means that you will focus on paragraphs, but on sentences as well. On this level, you will have to focus on repeated words, wrong sentence structure, grammar, tenses, as well as world building details, especially if you’re writing about a fantasy (or futuristic) universe where you’ve come up with your own terms. Also, you need to pay attention to other details, especially with the characters, like age, eye color, hair color, height, etc.
Proofreading is the last phase of the editing process, but it is a bit different than the previous phases. First, the focus during the proofreading process is on misspelled words, as well as repeating words, phrases and syntax errors, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything during the previous phase. It may seem like a repetition of the previous phase, but it isn’t – in fact, you might need to proofread your manuscript more than once to ensure that there are a very low number of mistakes. It is the phase that will make the manuscript, as mentioned above, shine.
Image credit: Joanna Penn on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/photo.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.