The Creative Writing Process: Editing Your Novel

Ah, editing your novel. This is the moment some people live for and other people dread. After you revise your novel, it’s time to write the next draft. Compile it all together again so it looks nice and pretty. Then you can tear it a part again!

Editing your novel isn’t an easy task and there’s no telling how many drafts you’ll need in order to edit the book to be as perfect as it can be.

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The different types of editing your novel.

If editing were easy, it wouldn’t take nearly as long to get a book out onto shelves. There are many different kinds of editing to do for your manuscript and can happen at different stages as well. Not to mention, at some point along the way, you’re going to want to hire a professional editor to look it over as well. Plus maybe beta readers and proofreading and… you get the picture.

Developmental Editing. This type of editing is the big one where you look at character development, the overall plot, dialogue, pacing, and more. I find this one takes the longest and is the hardest. There may be a lot of things you need to change. Sometimes you change something only to change it back or have to change something else as well. It can get messy, but will be worth it.

Line Editing. This is what it sounds like. You’re editing line by line reading each sentence individually. Is it needed? Does it aid the plot, character, or setting? If it doesn’t, maybe take it out.

Proofreading. This should always be done last. Once the story is good to go, no plot holes, no messy characters, proofreading should be done. This is looking for simple spelling and grammar mistakes, typos, making sure the tense stays true throughout, and more.

There’s a lot more that goes into editing and there are many different ways to go about it. It will take a while to get into a groove with it, but you’ll soon find a rhythm.

How do you tackle editing your novel? Let me know in the comments below. If you liked this post, please share it around.

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How To Find Your Editing Schedule

Time has a way of getting away from us. One of the biggest complaints from every writer is:

“I don’t have time to write!”

Or they can’t find the time or whatever other variation you can think of. The point is writers lack time when it comes to trying to build a writing career when they’re already juggling a full-time job, or school, or being a parent, or anything else going on in their life.

And if we have a hard time finding the time for writing… what about editing?

How To Find Your Editing Schedule

I don’t know about you, but editing is my least favorite part of the writing process. I write the first draft of a novel, set it aside for a while to take a break, and work on another one in the meantime. When the first draft of that second novel is done, it’s time to go back to the first novel, right? No.

I end up writing the first draft of the third novel with every intention of editing the other two novels.

But, you know, new ideas come out of nowhere. Writing 2,000 words a day sounds more productive than saying that I edited five pages. Also, writing is just easier than editing. There’s less thinking involved as you just tell yourself the story.

It doesn’t have to make sense, but it does to you because… well, you’re writing it. Why can’t everyone else just read your mind and be happy with the first draft, huh?

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Editing is a much longer process than writing. You can’t really spout out gibberish and expect it to come together. Plus, you have to read carefully to make sure you don’t miss any crucial mistakes. Editing one page may take double the time it took to write that page.

When it comes to writing, sometimes you just have to carry a notebook and write a sentence or two down on your lunch break at work or at the mall while your friend is trying on various outfits. You can’t exactly bring your manuscript to the mall and sit on the floor in the dressing room and mark up your papers, though.

So, how do you find the time to edit?

You make it.

Easier said than done, I know, but hear me out.

If you’ve made it as far as completing the first draft of a novel, you must be pretty serious about writing, right? You must want to publish it somewhere, right? Whether you hunt for an agent, self-publish it, or post it on Wattpad or your blog, you’re going to do something with that manuscript.

And if you’re that serious about your novel, you will be able to make the time to edit the crap out of it.

Pick a dedicated time of day or a certain block of time during the day.

Do you have an hour to spare on most days? Or even a half hour? Take advantage of that. Put your phone on silent and get off the Internet. Just bring out the red pen and work during that amount of time. It may seem short, but it’ll chip away at that manuscript.

Or, if you’re usually not doing anything after dinner, edit at that time. After you wash those dishes, sit at the kitchen table and edit until your favorite night time TV show comes on. This may also help if it’s around the same time each night so that your mind will be prepared when the editing comes.

You don’t have to edit every day.

While you will certainly get more done faster if you edit seven days a week, I don’t recommend that. However, if you have the time and want to, edit six days a week at the most. Give yourself at least one day of rest.

Pick three of four days of the week to get editing done. It’ll pace you through your novel, you won’t burn out, and you won’t be rushing the edits.

Edit by chapter, not by time.

Everyone edits differently and everyone goes at their own pace. Depending on how long your chapters are (or whatever your writing style is), pledge to edit one chapter a day. Some days it may take you 20 minutes, other days it may take an hour.

On those short days, try to edit an extra chapter, if time allows.

Assign yourself editing tasks each day.

If you’re crunched for time, just look for certain things about your novel you know you need to fix. Did you flip back and forth between tenses? Give a quick read and change to present words to past words. Is the pace too fast or too slow? Mark those spots and brainstorm ideas on how to fix it.

In conclusion…

There are a lot of methods to finding the time to edit your novel. If it’s something you absolutely need to get done, you’ll find the time easily.

Just one thing to remember:

Editing is not a race.

It takes some authors years to complete their novels. If you’ve been working a certain manuscript for a while, don’t fret.

Just think of all the improvements you’ve made on it since you first started.

What’s your typical editing schedule? Let me know in the comments below!

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5 Techniques To Edit A Novel

Everyone works differently. We all work at our pace and do things our own way.

There is no right way to write a novel. We all get through our first drafts in a different way and at different times.

Some plan, some pants. Some try to have the first draft written in a certain amount of time, others just write a little bit until it’s done. Even if it takes years.

Editing isn’t much different.

We all essentially look for the same things when we self-edit our novels. We look for plot holes, proper characters development, pacing issues, inconsistency. Then there’s the proofreading in which you look for typos, grammatical errors, spelling mishaps, and other mechanic-type stuff that goes into writing novels.

I usually end up with a million drafts of my novels and I edit each draft differently. It helps keep things interesting and I catch different things during each method.

1. Ask yourself, “What do I want out of this draft?

No matter what draft you’re on, what are you hoping to accomplish? Do you want to fix all the pacing issues? Are you trying to make sure the scenes are in a good order that make sense?

Make a list of what you want to get done and then look at each chapter individually. Ask yourself, “Does this chapter accomplish what I wanted to say?”

2. Read aloud

Your eyes and ears catch things your brain doesn’t. Your brain is too smart for its own good and automatically fixes typos to trick you into thinking you never made any mistakes. By reading out loud, you can see and hear the typos and how awkward some sentences sound.

3. Every sentence counts

Take your draft one sentence at a time. Yes, I know it sounds tedious, but it’ll help in the end.

The host of my writers workshop taught me that every sentence should do one of three things:

  • Set the scene
  • Develop character
  • Advance the plot

If a sentence doesn’t do one of those three things, take it out.

4. Read backwards

I heard this one from Sacha and you can read more about this method on her blog. She heard it from another friend. I started editing my novel this way and I have to say I quite enjoy it and I think it’s super helpful.

Read your novel in chapter order (start at chapter one and go from there), but read each chapter backward. Start at the last paragraph of chapter one and work your way up. This allows you to take your focus off of the actual story and search for other things.

5. Edit while writing

I know people say not to edit while writing. Just get the first draft written, the first draft is you just telling yourself the story, yada, yada, yada. I do agree with this, but there’s no harm in thinking about the editing process.

As you write that first draft, try to keep a list of editing notes to the side. After you write chapter five, did you suddenly have second thoughts that it should have happened earlier in the story? Make a note. “Look at chapter five, maybe rearrange the chapters and scenes to advance the plot better.”

This is also a great opportunity to make notes about researching later as well.


There are more than five ways to edit your novel than what I just listed here. These are the ways I edit my novels, though. I use a different method for each draft.

I’ve just started reading backwards the other day and I think it works. But there will be more on that later when I actually finish the draft.

How do you edit your novels?

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