Three Styles of Editing

Sorry this is so late. I thought I’d scheduled it to post when I hadn’t.

Editing a novel is tough work. So many elements have to mesh together to make a coherent, entertaining, and meaningful story. As I edit my YA novel, I’ve considered three styles of editing.

Read through novel like a reader.

This style helps you check for big picture problems, like narrative flow and sense. Author Stephanie Morrill in Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel writes that she uses this method while keeping a pad handy to note big changes she wants to make once she’s read the entire manuscript.

This sounded good to me, but when I tried it, I found it very difficult not to stop and make changes as I came across them because a change in chapter four would affect the way I evaluated the rest of the manuscript. I thought it was more efficient to make changes as I discovered them.

Treat each chapter as a short story.

I like this approach because I love reading and writing short stories. To start this method, I decide what the purpose of a chapter is and determine if it meets its goal by analyzing each component. Is the setting described enough or too much? How about the characters? If I have character charts that list their appearances, personalities, and mannerisms, I should pull them out. Does the dialogue sound realistic and appropriate to each character? Are my characters running off at the mouth or are their exchanges so brief as to confuse readers? Then I analyze the plot. Is it moving forward, stalling, or grinding to a halt?

The problem with this editing style is that each chapter may sparkle but might not flow into the next one, giving the novel a choppy or disconnected feel. Once I’ve edited each chapter, I need to read big chunks, like five to ten chapters in a sitting, to determine if the chapters are woking together.

Edit each element.

In this style, I focus on one element, such as setting, and read through the entire manuscript, only fixing problems about that component. Then I read it again with characters in mind. And again for plot, theme, and whatever other writing techniques I want to polish.

The drawback I see with this approach is that going through the novel so many times might make me blur over sections because I’m too familiar with them.

Next week, I’ll write more about what I’ve found to work for me. Writers, what’s your style of editing?

5 thoughts on “Three Styles of Editing

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  1. Helpful ideas. For me, taking about a month long break from looking at my first draft (during which I try to read at least one book for fun or a comp book for fun research) really helps clear my mind and see it with fresh eyes when I return to it.

      1. It’s really hard to let it rest!! I’ve lost plenty of sleep because I keep running different wordings through my mind trying to determine which is best.

  2. I’m not experienced with editing. I’m hoping to improve my skill this year. So far I’ve been editing each element. It’s helped me when I feel overwhelmed, I remember I only need to focus on one thing. BUT I’m really tired of my draft because I’ve gone through it so much.
    I like the idea of each chapter as a short story and may try that next time!

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