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?

Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel

When you’re done with NaNoWriMo, you’re faced with the hardest but I think most rewarding part of writing–editing. This phase can make you want to tear your hair out or tear your manuscript up, but it will add magic to your prose if you stick to it. Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel by Stephanie Morrill and Jill Williamson provides all kinds of help through this crucial process.

Edit Your Novel is an inaccurate title because the books covers so much more than that. A little over half of the book concerns editing, both macro and micro. Don’t know what those words mean? Get the book because it will explain that macro- editing is revising the big issues, such as character development and theme. Micro-editing is all the tiny things that need taken care of, like knowing when to insert or remove commas.

One of the most helpful sections under micro-editing is the chapter on punctuation. Author Jill Williamson sets out the rules from how to punctuate dialogue to how to correctly type and use en-dashes and em-dashes. I would have loved to have had this handy guide earlier in my career

The other half of the book provides all kinds of advice on how to get published with chapters on how traditional publishing works, how to write a synopsis and a query, find a literary agent, and deal with rejection.

The extra chapters at the end are the kind of bonus material I love. There’s self-editing checklist, brainstorming ideas, and the authors’s list of weasel words and phrases, which are words and phrases each author falls into the habit of using over and over again in their first draft. “Just” is a particular weasel word of mine. When I edit, I have to find them and retain only the ones that actually serve a purpose.

For those of us who’ve found so much help in Go Teen Writers: Edit Your Novel or on the Go Teen Writer’s website, there’s good news. Go Teen Writers: Write Your Novel is coming out December 3! Be sure to pre-order a copy.

What books on editing do you recommend?

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