9 Steps To Editing Your Novel

One question I tend to ask myself when editing my novels is:

Where do I start?

I make a list of notes to edit as I write. Sometimes I’ll write a scene and make a note whether it’s really needed or not. Sometimes I make notes about the characters or the pacing of the story.

Yet, even though I have that list, I begin editing and I find myself just reading. I’m reading like a reader, not editing like an editor.

But first drafts are always terrible, right? So there’s a lot to go through, a lot to think about, a lot to change. It takes a long time and a lot of extra drafts and trees.

So, I’ve decided, in an attempt to get myself a little more organized with my own editing, I’d come up with a process for it. Maybe this will work, maybe it won’t. But who knows, maybe one of you will find it helpful.

9 Steps to Editing a Novel

Step 1 – Take a break

I know this is an odd first step, but hear me out.

Once you finish writing that full first draft, step away from it. Let it rest for a while. I typically wait at least a month, sometimes longer. Give your characters a break and let your mind rest from that grueling plot. This way you can come back to it with fresh eyes.

Step 2 – Print it out, mark it up

Print out your manuscript double-spaced (for plenty of room to make notes) and double-sided if you can (sorry, trees!). Then begin your read-through and edits.

Be sure to look for any developmental errors and line edit to give it a thorough read through. Also, have sticky notes, index cards, highlights, various colored pens, etc. You want to be able to tell the difference between all your edits and still be able to somewhat read the page when you go to type it back up again.

Step 3 – Take a break

Self-explanatory. Wait another month or at least two weeks.

Step 4 – Rewrite and edit

Take your edits from the first draft and type it back up again. As you rewrite, edit some more. You’ll catch mistakes you didn’t before and your mind might change on some things. For example, you may disagree with an edit you made or you may add new edits that you left alone before.

When this is done, print it out again.

Step 5 – Tag, you’re it

Let someone else look at it. You can:

  • Get beta-readers (two or three or how many you’d like)
  • Ask a close friend or family member who’s not afraid to be truthful and mark up your manuscript
  • Submit it to your writer’s group (if you’re part of one)
  • Hire an editor

You can pick and choose from this list or you can do all of them. It’d be a good idea to get this set up ahead of time and let them know you’ll have the manuscript to them by a certain date. Give them a realistic deadline as well.

This will allow you to see your book through the eyes of a reader and get various opinions on it as well as general editing critiques.

Step 6 – Rewrite and edit

While others are looking at your novel that’s kind of like your break from it. When they give it back, get started on it right away. In case you have questions for them, you can ask them in a timely manner since the manuscript will still be fresh in their minds.

Rewrite the draft and edit as you go really thinking about the feedback you’ve received.

Step 7 – Repeat Steps 2 – 4 (Optional)

Depending on what stage the writing of your novel is in, you may have to give it another thorough self-edit. If this is the case, repeats steps two through 4. Print it out, mark it up, take a break, then rewrite making the edits to the new draft.

If your manuscript seems ready after having others look at it, you can skip this and go straight to the next step.

Step 8 – Proofread

Print out the manuscript one last time and give it one last read through.

Proofread it for any last minute changes like typos, grammatical errors, spelling errors, etc. Have someone else proofread it for you as well. It’s always good to have another pair of eyes.

Once the final corrections are made, you should be good to go.

Step 9 – Rewrite and submit

Add in the proofreading corrections and then you should have a polished manuscript on your hands. You can them submit your story to where ever you want.

In Conclusion…

This is the process I’m going to take for the mystery novel. I just started the first major edits this month and I hope to be done by the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes, how it works out for me. I’m hoping to be done with the manuscript by the end of 2017, but hopefully earlier.

Do you use a similar process to edit your novels? What kind of process do you use? Let me know in the comments below!

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Rainbow Editing

I haven’t touched my mystery novel in a long time. I wrote the original first draft for NaNoWriMo in November 2013. Since then, it’s changed a lot. I submitted it to my writer’s group and we all mutually agreed that the main character should not have been the POV character.

I rewrote the whole thing.

In 2015, my goal was to have the full manuscript completed by the end of the year. That didn’t happen, so my new goal was the end of the year in 2016.

The last time I worked on the draft was the summer of 2016. I began my edits, got about 60 pages in, and stopped. My “edits” started to be solely searching for typos. I was reading the story, not editing the book. I got frustrated, not knowing where to start and how to continue, so I stopped with every intention of going back to it a few weeks later.

Then Camp NaNo July 2016 happened and I never went back to my mystery novel.

Now that it’s 2017, my new goal was, (surprise), to finish the manuscript by the end of the year. I have a new plan and a new schedule. I also did some research on editing and I learned a lot. So I think it will work this time.

No one said editing had to be boring. No one said it had to be a chore. It’s a lot of work and brainpower, yes, but I’ve found a way to make editing a little more fun and interesting for myself while staying organized and continue to pay attention.

Rainbow Editing | Editing Your Novel

If you’re easily distracted by shiny and pretty things, like me, then this may be a fun way to edit your manuscript.

When you think of editing, you think of having a red pen in hand, right? Me, too. When you think of writing, you think of blue or black ink, right? If you’re typing it on the computer, it’s black ink.

Editing is hard enough, but when I started editing my novel again this month I decided to use the same draft I was working on last summer so I could save a tree.

The first 10 pages or so are really marked up and then I lost steam. Up until page 60 or so, there are small red marks here and there, but that’s it.

I decided not to use red so I wouldn’t get the last edits and the current edits mixed up. Since I started, two of my pens had run out of ink so I ended up having four different colors on one page.

It’s pretty if I do say so myself.

That’s when I thought of rainbow editing. This is an actual method teachers use to get their students (mostly elementary and middle grade) to self-edit their essays. Each color represents something different: spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.

But why don’t I do that? I have various colored pens that I never use and it will help me stay organized in my thoughts as I write, edit, and rewrite. So, that’s just what I decided to do…

Red – general typos, spelling, grammar, etc.
Green – Plot changes
Light Green – Dialogue, description, pacing, tenses, etc.
Blue – Character development
Purple – Research, fact-check
Pink – Overall structure, switching sentences and paragraphs around, vocabulary, word replacement, etc.

It definitely looks a bit much, but if you make a “legend” and can remember which color represents what, it helps to zero in on one thing at a time.

I didn’t think of this idea until after I started editing this draft, but it will definitely be used in the future.

Do you rainbow edit or have a similar editing method? Let me know in the comments below!

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Understanding The 3 Major Types Of Editing

Did you know that there are different levels of editing? I bet you did, but do you understand them?

Editing is much more in depth than most people believe it is. Thus, making editing seem even more overwhelming than it really is.

It’s a lot to take in at first, but it’s actually not that bad. I think the most confusing part about it is that different types of editing have various names that all mean the same thing.

I myself get confused, so let’s talk about it.

Understanding The 3 Major Types of Editing

Developmental Editing | Structural Editing | Substantive Editing

This is one of the heavier forms of editing and definitely the most in-depth. With this form of editing, you’re looking at:

1. Overall plot (the big picture, goals of the story)
2. Character development
3. Pacing and tense (voice, tone, etc.)
4. Dialogue
5. Possibly rewriting entire paragraphs or chapters (add or remove information, reorganize scenes, revise sentence structure)

Ask yourself:

  • Does this flow properly?
  • Is there a clear opening, climax, and resolution?
  • Does the overall story make sense?

This type of editing will take the longest and be the most draining for you, but if done right, it’ll be worth it. It will completely reform and reimagine your manuscript.

Copy Editing | Line Editing | Stylistic Editing | Content Editing

While some people would consider copy editing to be separate from the rest I just listed, I’m clumping them together because they’re similar enough to each other.

This is kind of like a medium form of editing. When you copy edit, or line edit, you’re revising individual sentences. You’re looking for:

1. Revising the structure to let it flow better
2. Replacing words (weak words, repetitive words, etc.)
3. Making sure the sentence makes sense
4. Grammar, punctuation, etc.

Read each sentence out loud and ask yourself,

  • Does this sentence make sense? Is it awkward?
  • Are the language and vocabulary appropriate for the targeted audience?
  • Is this repetitive from another sentence before it? (If so, which sounds better and where should it be placed?)

You may go cross-eyed after a while, but it’ll narrow everything down for you.


This should be the final editing stage. It’s the lightest and, in my opinion, the easiest.

Proofreading is about finding those little mistakes that you didn’t catch before. Including, but not limited to:

  • General typos
  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Formatting
  • Capitalization
  • Tenses
  • Article and pronoun use

Most of this will be caught in the copy editing, but proofreading is a nice wrap up to finally put that shiny bow on your manuscript as you prepare it for the world.

Bonus: Fact Checking

Another kind of editing you may do, depending on your genre, is checking for facts and accuracy of your topic. This would most likely be done during the copy editing.

When writing anything that relates to something in real life, make sure:

  • The stats and facts are correct
  • the names are correct and spelled right
  • Statements are properly quoted

And more. Make sure you do your research from credible sources!

In conclusion…

Editing is a long process. It’s draining. It’s difficult. It’s annoying. It’s confusing. Still, it’s something that has to be done.

If you know what you’re doing and get into a good groove with it, your manuscript will shine.

How does editing treat you? Do you have any tips? Let me know in the comments below.

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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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