Crash Course: How To Edit Your Novel

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Writer's Edit

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I read it and found it full of interesting and helpful ideas/concepts.  If you enjoyed reading it, consider following the site by adding your email to the newsletter and tell the owner your thoughts! ‘How To Edit Your Novel’ is a guide designed for writers who have completed a long-form work of fiction and want to edit, polish and perfect it as much as possible. It’s all about providing you with the information, tools and advice you need to take your first draft to the next level, transforming it into a manuscript that’s ready for submission or self-publication. The guide includes lessons on everything you need to get started: an overview of all the different types of editing, instructions on how to distance yourself from your novel, and more.


Once these preparations are complete, it’s onto the actual editing process. We’ll delve into all the aspects of structural editing, copyediting, and working with beta readers, providing in-depth instructions and advice every step of the way. Finally, we’ll talk about completing a final read-through and proofread of your novel – perfecting all those little details that will get it ready to send out into the world. This guide is designed for you to use at your own pace. You can complete it entirely in your own time, picking and choosing lessons according to your own experience and progress with your novel. The Writer’s Edit team has drawn on its collective industry knowledge and experience to develop the ultimate course for writers editing their first novel. With our instruction, advice and support, you can give your novel the professional edge that’s needed in today’s competitive publishing landscape.

Table Of Contents 

1 Lesson 1: Distance Yourself
1.1 What do we mean by ‘distance yourself’?
2 Lesson 2: Understand The Different Types Of Editing
2.1 Structural Editing
2.2 Copyediting
2.3 Proofreading
2.4 Optional: Manuscript Assessment
3 Lesson 3: How To Approach Structural Editing
3.0.1 The Best Approach
3.1 Step #1: Create chapter maps
3.2 Step #2: Lay these out
3.3 Step #3: Next lesson
4 Lesson 4: How To Find The Structural Issues In Your Novel
4.1 Plot Issues
4.2 Character Issues
4.3 Setting Issues
4.4 Pacing Issues
4.5 Other Issues
5 Lesson 5: How To Address Structural Issues
5.1 1. One of your characters is flat, and lacks drive
5.2 2. You need to convey a lot of information, but don’t want to info-dump…
5.3 3. Your ending feels forced
5.4 4. You’ve forgotten to include a vital piece of information that affects the whole plot…
5.5 5. You’ve included too much action and not enough depth…
5.6 6. You’re concerned your dialogue’s not working…
5.7 7. You’re worried the manuscript is too boring…
5.7.1 Clarifying Goals
5.7.2 Raising the Stakes
5.7.3 Stronger Characterisation
5.8 8. One of your chapters stalls…
5.9 9. You’re feeling defeated about the whole manuscript…
5.9.1 Talk to another writer
5.9.2 Go outside
5.9.3 Find inspiration in other art
6 Lesson 6: Update Your Manuscript
7 Lesson 7: How To Do Your First Read-Through
7.1 1. Reader Hat
7.2 2. Editor Hat
8 Lesson 8: Update Your Manuscript Again
8.1 1. Copy and paste the text of your DRAFT-2 document into a new document.
8.2 2. Using the notes you made during your read-through, take your time to address each issue you find.
9 Lesson 9: How To Copyedit Your Novel
9.1 The Basics
9.1.1 Spelling and Grammar
9.1.2 Syntax
9.1.3 Consistency
9.2 Common Spelling & Grammar Errors
9.2.1 1. It’s vs Its
9.2.2 2. Wrong Choice of Words
9.2.3 3. Who/That
9.2.4 4. Incomplete Comparisons
9.2.5 5. Possessive Nouns
9.2.6 6. Use of Commas
9.2.7 7. Hyphen vs. En Dash vs. Em Dash
9.2.8 8. Incorrect Capitalisation
9.2.9 9. Using the wrong spelling for your country
10 Lesson 10: How To Create A Style Guide
10.1 Spelling
10.2 Punctuation and style
10.3 Speech/Dialogue/Internal thoughts
11 Lesson 11: How To Ensure Continuity
12 Lesson 12: Complete Your Copyedit
13 Lesson 13: How To Use Beta Readers
13.1 Why Do You Need a Beta Reader?
13.2 How to Choose a Beta Reader
13.2.1 Who isn’t an appropriate beta reader?
13.3 Where can you find beta readers?
13.4 How many beta readers?
13.5 How to approach a beta reader
14 Lesson 14: How To Master Beta Reader Etiquette
14.1 Etiquette for Writers
14.1.1 Be grateful
14.1.2 The reader’s preference
14.1.3 Give guidelines
14.1.4 No first drafts
14.1.5 Don’t take offence and don’t argue
14.1.6 Be patient
14.1.7 Return the favour/pay it forward
14.1.8 Process the edit over time
15 Lesson 15: How To Handle Beta Reader Feedback
16 Lesson 16: The Last Read-Through
17 Lesson 17: Complete The Proofread
18 Conclusion

Don’t have time to read the whole guide right now?
No worries. Let us send you a copy so you can read it when it’s convenient for you. Just let us know where to send it…

Lesson 1: Distance Yourself

By now, you’ve spent a lot of time working on your novel. You’ve mulled over plot points, argued with your characters (and yourself), you’ve talked to friends about it – it’s taken up many of your waking hours. In other words, you’re very close to it.

Throughout the editing process, it’s important that you gain some much-needed distance from your book. You need to be able to examine your characters, story and setting objectively and critically in order to improve it. What do we mean by ‘distance yourself’?

We mean, take some time away from your manuscript after you’ve finished the first draft.  The optimal length of time varies from writer to writer. Some give it a weekend, some leave their manuscript for up to six months.  We recommend putting it in a drawer for two to four weeks. Treat these weeks as a holiday – a reward for working so hard on your book.  It’s just the right amount of time where you’ll be able to come back to your novel, refreshed and with the ability see the flaws, while also not being so long that you lose momentum.

Task: While you take two to four weeks off before starting the actual editing stage, you should be thinking about the areas you already know need improvement.

Without looking at your manuscript, write down any areas that you know need work.
Is there a character who’s underdeveloped? Is there a chapter where you recall the setting wasn’t particularly strong? Does your book lack lyrical description because you were too eager to get to the action while writing?

Over the course of your writing break, consider these issues and any others you can think of off the top of your head. Note these down in an initial edit list, which you’ll come back to later.


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