This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
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 story.
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…