This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I’m just about to start the first edit of my new novel and it made me think about how much my editing process has changed over the last few years. With every book I write, thanks to reading tips and seeing what other writers do, I think I’m getting better at it.
When I started editing my first novel, about three and a half years ago, it was a very different process to what I do now. I was so chuffed to have finished my first draft that I printed a copy and sat down in my big comfy reading chair, read my novel and made amendments with a lovely red gel-ink pen. I was pretty pleased that the book seemed to read ok, so I changed the errors I’d found. I reprinted it and gave it to my sister to read. After it got a thumbs up from her, I sent it out to literary agents. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t secure literary representation from those submissions.
When I look back at it now every part of me cringes. Either I was bloomin’ good at writing a first draft then and the whole self-loathing and thinking my first drafts are a big pile of poop is a new thing, or that manuscript was equally a big pile of poop. I mean, I read it once. Once on paper. I hadn’t cut a single paragraph. I’d barely rewritten anything. And I certainly hadn’t read it out loud, which is one of the criticisms I got in a rejection letter from an agent.
The first thing I do now, before I start editing, is I read my novel on my Kindle. But whereas that was once the only thing I did, now it’s just the start. This is where I see what I’m up against. I try and ignore the many, many typos and the incoherent paragraphs, and instead I make notes with pen and paper about the plot. I try and work out how to make it more coherent. By the end of the read through, it (hopefully) becomes clear to me, what parts of chapters will need to be culled and where anything needs to be added.
I’m also a big fan of changing things half way through my novel. In my latest novel, my MC was organising a trip to Wales, yet by the time I was at the end of the novel the trip had changed to West Sussex. By reading the book in its entirety, I can remember all these big changes and potentially massive continuity errors.
I have to admit that I’m always a little nervous about the first read through, as you then know how much work you’ve got to do to edit into a good book. And you know that this is the first of about a billion times that you’ve got to read the damned thing. But it does just make me giggle when I read it at this stage, to think that I thought once that that was me done with the editing process.
So what do other people do? Do you just jump straight in to the edit? Or do you read it over first?