Joanna Penn from TheCreativePenn.com recently published an article by Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker on editing hacks which will revolutionize your writing. Even though the article was a success I felt it could have brought more to the table.
They wrote tips such as reading your novel out loud or summarizing your scenes on notes and sticking them up on a cork-board.
Even though these tips are good, I felt like we all knew that already. Cork-board technique is the biggest selling point for Scrivener and everyone in the industry will tell you to read your novel aloud.
So, for that reason, I prepared a list of things I do when editing fiction. These hacks are adjustable for length as long as we are talking about fiction. Non-fiction is a different story all together and we will come to that!
To refresh your memory, here is a post about editing we published earlier.
With no time wasting, let’s dive in!
Give It Time
Once you hit that word-count and feel like you have said everything that needed to be said, leave it be. A month is a universally agreed upon amount of time. So, when you win this year’s NaNoWriMo let it simmer during December. Let it incubate.
In the meantime, write a short story or a poem or an article. It is a nice way to detach yourself from your novel. Have a nice celebration cocktail and come up with a short story or two to write. If you need help getting inspired, here are our October prompts. And once you write it, here is where you can submit it.
Only when you feel you are far away from your novel, you may start the editing. This is when you read it from beginning to end.
Be Ruthless With It
I know it is hard to cut out those perfect lines and throw them out. I suffer from the same condition but we all must summon our courage and start cutting. Here is a good cutting method I’ve learned.
Cut out the single biggest part in your novel without hurting your novel. For example, if you spent the whole first act talking about irrelevant things not contributing to the plot or character development, cut out the whole act.
Of course, you couldn’t have missed the point of the first act, but the point is – be brave, if you see the whole act is unnecessary then cut it out.
Do you have a subplot or another plot line or a character? Do they bring anything to your main plot or influence your protagonist’s journey? No? Cut them out.
Next, cut out a chapter. All chapters are only links in a chain or dots in a circle. If you have a chapter that is only a filler to pump up your word-count then you must cut it. No matter how cool the flashback is or how wickedly awesome the time machine described there for no purpose was, it is ruining your novel.
Then cut out a scene. After that, cut out a paragraph. Not cut out a line. Now cut out a word. And cut out all the words you feel sound a little bit strange or you aren’t sure about. You can give it all to your Petreon supporters who want some extra material or your e-mail subscribers.
Have Beta Readers
This is a general one and everyone will tell you this so I must too. Gather five to ten people who are avid book readers, who love the genre you wrote in, who can give you constructive criticism (so no, not mom) and who are willing to read your manuscript.
By this point, you should have read your manuscript again and filled any plot holes you might have had or made during all that cutting. Ask your beta readers only to read the novel and give them two to three weeks to do it.
Don’t ask any questions before they read the book – that is a way to spoil the experience or worse, tell them what to expect. You won’t have the genuine reading experience in those comments, you’ll only get opinions on matters you raised.
After they finish reading, ask them to give you feedback. If you wish, you can make a little questionnaire for them or yo can simply ask them to write a book report. Also, ask them to underline everything they felt wasn’t completely right.
Also, don’t listen to every single criticism. If one person dislikes you protagonist out of five or ten readers, that’s great, you won. But if three out of five readers say they couldn’t justify the protagonists behavior or couldn’t connect to them, you have a problem.
We often use words that we don’t need (‘that’ comes to mind). So, if you are using Scrivener (or even Word or Libre Office) you can check the number of times a word was used. You will be amazed at how many times you wrote ‘just’ or ‘that’.
Try breaking the pattern. Don’t use those words too much. Look for synonyms or cut them altogether.
Think twice about every word you use.
But where do you stop? Well, somewhere. You have to stop somewhere. You’ll have read your book ten times in the least, from the first to the last page. You’ll have cut and written so many scenes that you will hardly remember what is good and what should be out.
So, when you are completely and utterly sick of your book, stop editing.
Conclusion To Editing Hacks
These are some of the most useful things that will make your book. You can in a great extent use these techniques for short stories or novellas.
This is one of the ways to bring your book closer to the publishing condition. You will have read it so many times by now and you will know it by heart. So, now hire a professional to have a look.
Author: Mladen Reljanović
Mladen Reljanović is the founder and lead writer at Writer to Writers. He is the author of Oaktown stories, senior student of communication and a pianist.