Simple Editing Techniques for Any Style

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?

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6 thoughts on “Simple Editing Techniques for Any Style

  1. The Compostela Key June 15, 2009 at 4:05 pm Reply

    Some nice pointers there Jess, but how do you tackle the dreaded word count when editing, how do you bring it down…..?

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    • Jessica Rosen June 15, 2009 at 4:24 pm Reply

      As I mentioned in a previous entry, I tend to sprint and build a huge wordcount when left to my own devices. I’m allowing myself about 3k words a day now. It can be very frustrating! To keep the wordcount down, I just watch the clock. If i have to, I set an alarm. At two hours, I take a break. That’s about 2k words. I glance over that work, take another break. As though giving myself an indulgent gift, I grant myself another hour to write. In the long run, it’s making for better scenes as I spend the time going back and making sure my dialogue is punched up, my passive words are edited out, there’s enough conflict in each scene and that my characters are individuals.

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  2. The Compostela Key June 15, 2009 at 8:25 pm Reply

    Ah, I get ya, so do you go over what you’ve already written and re-write a lot of it, making it snappier? I’m at that stage where I don’t know whether to keep the old or re-write!

    So have you had anything published yet, or are you still working towards your first? What kind of genre do you work in?

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    • Jessica Rosen June 15, 2009 at 8:52 pm Reply

      Write, break, tighten and polish. Think “wax on, wax off.”

      I do both: keep the old *and* re-write. I never get rid of any full draft of my work. Rather, I make a new file, rename the old one, and work on the new one. If my editing turns into hack and slash, I have the previous draft handy as a “reset button.” There are always times when I want to snag something I’d left behind for a new draft or even a different project as well.

      I haven’t had anything of significance published except on the web. Even the insignificant was a long time ago! I’ve never had the chutzpah to submit work properly until now. This is the first I’ve seriously written in about a decade, having picked up the pen (read: keyboard) late last year. I joyfully describe my genre as a blend of fantasy, thriller and romance. When I come up with the query and make it sound better than that, I’ll let you know.

      How about yourself? Your teaser works! I’m looking forward to reading the book.

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  3. The Compostela Key June 15, 2009 at 10:16 pm Reply

    Ha, you are swiftly becoming my online Miyagi!

    Well I’m kinda doing the same as you, I guess I just need to get very brutal, as I seem to be adding rather than hacking. Its all getting very epic!

    Well, I’m new to this writing game. Been writing this story for the past two and a half years now, just started with one scene and have patiently let it develop itself. I’m glad you liked the teaser…It’s nice to know its doing it’s job and now you’ve inspired me to put my prologue up. Let me know what you think, it’d be good to get your view.

    I’m intrigued by the blend of fantasy, thriller and romance..need to know more though!

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  4. Nora Weston July 13, 2010 at 2:28 pm Reply

    Hi! These are great suggestions for editing.

    This is especially true…”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.”

    It’s amazing how different a story sounds when read aloud. I’ve caught things by doing this that otherwise I would’ve missed. Take care.

    Like

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