Editing & How to Edit a Novel

So today I’m going to be talking about my editing process, or, to put it in simply, how I edit my books. First of all, of course, a disclaimer: I am not a professional in this field whatsoever, these are just the things that I have found to be problematic in my writing and wish to fix. This is only my opinion. Secondly, the books mentioned below are not extra ordinary or flawless in any way; I wrote them when I was still nine and eleven and I personally wish to remove them from existence, if I could (that’s part of why I created my ‘Carleton’ identity) but, however, if you wish to learn more about these in depth, feel free to click here. But with that being said, continue reading for some bonus editing tips and also, do what I say, not what I do.

Editing & How to Edit a Novel

GOALS

First things first, you need to set up your goals. The most basic and essential editing goals (in my opinion, you are free to agree or disagree) to make your book great are:

  1. Keeping the original draft/story intact
  2. A flawless draft, without errors
  3. Keeping the backbone intact

And just a little thing you want to keep in mind – do not what I do, but what I say. I completely went off track with the third goal, thanks to dad’s excitement, but hear me out.

First of all, make sure you can still see the original draft through these new fancy words. I just think it’s important to let YOU shine through the books, and not YOU [EDITOR] show all the time.

Second, you want to revise it so many times that no error is left. I personally (thanks to dad) did not realise how crucial this was until my third book. If you want people to take you seriously, make sure your book doesn’t have any errors in it.

Lastly, keep the spine intact. No matter if you’re writing, re-writing, editing whatever, make sure the spine of the story stays the same – and by spine I mean the general idea. You cannot go rewriting a story from scratch – it will turn out a completely different novel, and you don’t want all you previous thinking to go to trash – yes, changes to the storyline can be made, but even those should be made with great care – I personally copy and paste the entire thing into another documents and make my changes there to compare the two side by side. So I definitely recommend doing that.

LOOPHOLE SELF SCAN

Because I’m all about plot twists, death, magic and mysteries, it is very essential for me to fix up and strengthen the plot before I get to the language. This usually includes quickly running through my book in as little sittings as possible and make sure the story flows out smoothly—make sure you’re not contradicting yourself or a previous idea anywhere, no loopholes, no leftover spaces (unless its clear that the gap is to be filled in a sequel) or just anything out of order. This is especially essential to fantasy and mystery writers in my opinion.

LOOPHOLE STRANGER SCAN

This is another essential. This basically mean approaching someone who you know has read a lot of books like yours, and ask him/her to read your book and go through it and give suggestions that are plot related. This is the easiest because the person who reads the book doesn’t have to be a pro English expert, as you’re only looking for improvements in the plot, but if you want corrections in spelling too, go ahead and go for it. Also, make sure you’re ready to accept criticism, and you’re not waiting for your own praise, but some genuine suggestions. For me, this is my mom most of the time.

LANGUAGE STRANGER SCAN

This will kind of sound repetitive, but again, go through your book and search and correct all grammar and spelling mistakes. For me, my mom corrects spellinges and is grammar (get it?) while she is doing a loophole scan. She will do this on a print copy, and then I’ll copy them onto my computer.

LANGUAGE SELF SCAN

Not necessary, but I do it nonetheless. This is the part where I kind of move from correcting to making it better. I swap out words for better ones, paragraphs for better paragraphs, and so on and so forth. I focus on the description, vocabulary, language, and everything like that. This also automatically rolls into a spelling/grammar check.

REWRITING OR EDITING?

A lot of people rewrite books, but I personally find that very de-motivating, and try to edit mostly, because it keep in line with goal #1 and that’s where I edit A LOT. So I personally don’t think it’s necessary to rewrite, but if you feel like it, do it.

PRO EDITORS?

I personally don’t feel like I’m in the need for a professional editor right now, even though it takes my mother a million years to edit one story, because she is busy, but I just feel more comfortable sitting down with her, correcting stuff myself, being able to give suggestions, and just discussing stuff openly the way I never would with someone else.

But, even if you do get one, it’s best to check it yourself first.

REVIEWING?

No, this is not about sending books to book bloggers/booktubers for review, but this is more of pre-publication suggestion kind of thing. I’d highly suggest sending a manuscript to some trustee people you can count on to give you genuine, valuable suggestions. This will usually be my friend, my mom, and a cousin.

 

THINGS TO CHECK WHILE EDITING

So last week I was editing the final ARC of Instrumental Kings when I started picking up so many mistakes and things I wanted to add or cut out and change, which I had somehow neglected in the million other editing rounds I’d previously done. And it’s fine. Because I wrote Instrumental Kings way before Instrumental Queens, so my writing is much different and much better now. So I chose to ignore them, especially because this was the final ARC but the first few pages I did edit, were filled in red ink all over. And so I came up with an ‘editing key’ for future editing to make my book better.

What this basically consists of is words and their abbreviations that I write atop the paragraphs/words/sentences they fit on. For example, if a sentence is really overloaded with unnecessary details, I’d write ‘w.d’ over it, meaning ‘wordiness’. So here I have a couple of similar things that can help you with making the book better.

Of course, a disclaimer, like always, this is just the things I’ve found to be really problematic in my writing style, you can add or cut out things as you like it, but this is the key that I mainly use. Also, I’m not claiming to be a really good writer or anything, this is just things I’ve picked up along the way.

REDUNDANCY (R.D)

Redundancy means repetition. It means when you’re repeating the same thing except in a different way or maybe even the same way – in any case, you’re repeating what you’ve just said.

For example, the first line of Instrumental Kings is I drove to college with the windows rolled down. Then, a few lines later, in which I discuss the weather, it’s repeated again, I drove to my college. That is redundancy. Repetition. So I wrote a small ‘r.d’ over it and cut out the repetition.

WORDINESS (W.D)

Wordiness is similar to unnecessary elongation (see below), except it just means extra description that you don’t need. Everything is clear without a word or line being there. In many cases, this can also mean redundancy.

For example, a sentence in Instrumental Kings goes, There was no noise except the occasional drip of the moisture, indicating last night’s rain – how could I be so absent minded not to have noticed the rain? In this sentence, the entire part after the dash in unnecessary. First of all, since the rain happened at night, the character must have been sleeping, so he couldn’t have noticed it anyway. Secondly, it’s not relevant and the sentence would be better off without it.

CONTINUITY ERROR (C.E)

Continuity error means two sentences don’t connect well together. They lack a certain word or a punctuation that will make them flow naturally and it won’t look unnatural and confusing to read. This mostly happens with long sentences that are joined together.

For example, a character Instrumental Kings says, I could not believe how I could be such a coward and staying away longer only made it worse. These sentences don’t connect. There’s something off about them. They don’t roll out of your tongue when you read them. What they’re lacking is a little word and a full stop. So, the edited version now says, I could not believe how I could be such a coward. Besides, staying away longer only made it worse. That’s much better.

EXCESSIVE DRAMA (E.D)

I hate this in books. This is basically when a sentence is too dramatic to fit the vibe of a scene or book. It’s really cringey and weird. I had a lot of this in Instrumental Kings.

A line goes, I lay there, staring at the clouds, relaxing my soul. That last part, relaxing my soul, is excessive drama. It doesn’t feel fit to go into the scene and it just makes it really cringey and makes it sound like something it’s not. This is one of my pet peeves in books.

NARRATION ERROR (N.E)

Tense error means switching from one tense to another, or from first-person to third or something like that. This can be really hard to manage especially if you’re trying out a new tense or style. But be wary of it and keep your eyes peeled. It’s really easy to do. Another thing is when you’re writing multiple POVs, you can sometimes slip into another character’s POV at times, and also be aware of that.

I’m going to use the same sentence here, how could I be so absent minded not to have noticed the rain? Again, because the rain has happened last night, it should have been, how could I have been so absent minded not to have noticed the rain? I don’t know, really. I’m not an English Connoisseur, but I think the second one sounds better.

EXCESSIVE ELONGATION (E.E)

Essentially, this means the unnecessary elongation of a sentence/paragraph/scene that wouldn’t have made a difference to the main story. These can range anywhere from sentences to paragraphs to chapters.

For example, this paragraph: When I returned to my room, I was hungry. I was tired of fish and chips, so I went to the drive thru at McDonalds. I couldn’t think of anything to eat, and I always hated burgers. I had already had chips. So I took some nuggets and a McFlurry and returned home, carefully lying down on the bed cover. First of all, this paragraph, if I had to keep it, for some reason, would have been much better, detailed and different. But it is just unnecessary and leads you right back to the main thing, especially when the last page just mentioned that he packed food with him. So now, the edited version, is this: When I returned to my room, I collapsed on the bed cover. That’s it. All of that long unnecessary hassle gone.

This is also key to make sure your readers don’t lost interest.

PLOT ERROR (P.E)

This means that there is a loophole in the plot. And it effects the entire story and makes it meaningless. This can either be really big or really small. These can be really hard to spot, so keep your eyes peeled for this too.

For example, in Instrumental Kings, we talk about the main character going to college for two days in the week and skipping one day. Which means, if school started on Monday, it is now Thursday. The protagonist mentions how a named character is absent from college. The next line says, He didn’t show up the next day either. This means he didn’t show up on Friday either. The next line reads And the next. First, it should have been or the next. Secondly, this means he didn’t show up on Saturday, and there is no college on Saturday. That is a minor loophole in the writing/plot.

WORDS TO LOOK OUT FOR WHILE EDITING

This is where we come to the very important rule of show, don’t tell. Any sentence including the first set of words in the list below will probably be telling, so you know what you have to do there. Cut it out. If you haven’t heard of the ‘show don’t tell’ rule, it basically means that instead of telling the reader she was drowning, show them, water coiled around her, sucking away the air. Also, here are some words you should keep on the look out for and try to cut down as much as possible when you are editing:

  • Said
  • Did
  • Realised
  • Remembered
  • Decided
  • Saw
  • Found
  • Heard
  • Suddenly
  • That
  • Then

And that’s it! I hope you picked up some things from this. If you did make sure you share this post. Drop a comment, leaving any other things you think I missed. Having said that, I’ll see you next time. Bye!

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Editing and How to Edit Your Own Novel

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