Writing a novel isn’t all pounding out words on a keyboard and hitting Save. Editing a novel is just as important as the writing. It is in the editing process that one smooths, polishes and fine tunes the novel to reading goodness. Editing takes the raw gem and brings out the multifaceted beauty within.
I’m learning to edit a novel in a more effective way. It’s like training to use a muscle differently. I have to make myself do it each time. I expect the muscle memory will kick in soon, though.
Each writer develops his own style of editing. Some wait until the piece is done before addressing the editing process. That may work for a more organized author, but it doesn’t work well for me. I now look over my writing every 3k words or so with a major editing at the end.
Regardless of when you edit, there are elements which must be present for you to publish a novel. Look for them closely when you edit. Be honest with yourself. Are they strong enough to interest an editor or a literary agent?
These are some editing techniques that our heroine has learned that can help no matter what your editing style is.
Well-Drawn Characters: Do your characters jump off the page? Do you make the reader love them or love to hate them? Actually seeing the characters in your head as you write them can help you write with their true and different voices. Consider using a character wall to help build your characters.
Your Own Voice: Every writer develops his own rhythms in his writing. Stay true to your voice. If you’re getting tired while writing and you wonder if it shows, it probably does! The cadence of your voice won’t sing through if you’re fading fast over the keyboard. Consider reading your manuscript out loud, either alone or to others. This is a great tool for finding any awkwardness, either in word choice or sentence structure. If you stumble over reading it, the reader will stumble over it as well.
Plot Devices and Details: Ever forget a detail that happened to your heroine three chapters back? I have. I’ve also dropped little side-plot devices in my writing sprints. Consider creating a timeline for your major characters. You can adjust it as you write, so long as you stay true to it the whole way through. While editing, consider reading your work backwards, section by section. That makes a dropped detail surprisingly obvious.
Allowing your editing style to evolve will keep you true to your writing. You don’t write the same way you did ten years ago. Why should you edit the same way you did?