Okay, so you've spent the last few
weeks (or months) in stage two of the editing process – making the structural, plot and character changes to your book. You might, in fact, still be reeling from how different your book has become, but hopefully you're also really
excited by the changes.
If not, if there is still a little
voice telling you that some of the big stuff
still isn't right, then I urge you to go back and have another go.
Remember, the changes can be major – don't be afraid of that. Maybe
you've realised that the book should actually be written in first
person rather than third, that a minor character is really the
protagonist, or that the setting would better as Disneyland, rather
than Yorkshire, but you're resisting because it will be too much
work. Do it! Follow your gut!
So. Once you've really finished stage
two, you're ready to move onto stage three, close editing. This is sentence-level tinkering and rewriting for continuity.
Personally, I prefer to tackle the
continuity first. Having pulled apart and rewritten the sequence of
your plot, you now need to make that your text matches your new
Check all your transitions, and pay special attention to the
endings of scenes and chapters. Are they exciting or intriguing? Do
they make your reader want to read on?
Next, it's time to polish your prose.
This self-editing is something which improves with practice, but if
you don't know where to begin then try reading your work out loud.
It's much easier to spot clunky sentences or bad dialogue.
Know yourself. We all have favourite
words or phrases which end up sprinkled throughout our first drafts,
clogging up the prose. For example, I know that I have a tendency to
have people nodding, blinking, sighing, shrugging and looking rather
too often, so I do a search for those words. It's also common to use
words which don't say anything such as 'seem', 'really', or 'kind of'
when you're struggling to describe things.
Also look out for repetition. Sometimes repetition is used for effect, and sometimes you just forgot that you already said that thing in a
slightly different way, or that you
already used the word 'bright' three times in the previous sentence.
Another thing which can be repeated is
sentence construction. If several sentences in a row use the same
structure, it can be flat to read. Varying sentence structure can
also be useful for adding emphasis and controlling pace. If a section
seems dull or clunky, try rewriting it in a couple of different ways.
Don't be afraid of the delete key. If a
word, sentence or paragraph isn't adding anything, cut it. If you
find this difficult (or aren't sure if something is needed or not),
save a new version of your document and make the cuts. Re-read it the
next day and see if you miss anything. If you do, you can
revert to the previous version. Nine times out of ten I can't even
remember what it was I cut…