You’ve finished your manuscript. Excellent! You’ve accomplished a great challenge! But it’s also been said that writing is rewriting that first draft. So...you’re not done yet. But the end is definitely in sight.
I’m at this point right now in my WIP, a novel well over 100,000 words. It’s fun and frightening and frustrating all at once. Looking at it positively, the story is basically finished, I can enjoy what I wrote (most of it, anyway!), and I can delight in adding finishing touches and getting everything “right.” I’ve been at this point twice before in my two previous novels and it takes me a good long time to work through until I finally feel it can be tied off with a bow. How you edit or revise depends on how you wrote in the first round, but here’s what I’ve learned about the process that works for me:
- Take your time. This is where you can afford to be a perfectionist. Your free-flowing creativity did the task of throwing the story together; now is the time to be analytical. You also want to allow plenty of time because you don’t want to get stressed out.
- Check for consistency. Do the names of characters and locations stay the same throughout the manuscript? Does each character’s physical appearance always match up? Do they always act according to their personality? You can make a chart to keep track of it all.
- If you’re like me and “over-write,” therefore finding it necessary to trim your word-count, be sacrificial. If a word, sentence, paragraph, scene, et cetera, seems superfluous to you the writer, it probably will feel even more so to the readers. If you have too many “things” packed into a story that don’t really contribute to the story, you run the risk of distracting from what is most important.
- On the flipside, if something feels bare or not fully explained, fill it out. Some writers purposely write the bare bones of a manuscript first before filling in details in the second draft.
- If you’re also like me and sometimes leave holes in the story because you’re not sure you need to include something, editing is the time to put them in if you really do feel they’re necessary.
- Check for clarity. Does that word truly express what your sentence is trying to convey? Does that bit of dialogue make sense? Is that metaphor too fancy? Does this description help readers see an accurate picture?
- If you’re writing historical fiction, double-check facts. Research the words and idioms used in dialogue to make sure they’re period-correct (I love etymononline.com for this).
- Correct typos if you spot them. Even if you’re planning on having it edited and proofread, you’ll save your editor time if you correct what you can. If they charge by the hour, this will save you money!
- Get others involved. Recruit beta-readers! They’ll help you catch anything you missed and give you the invaluable perspective of readers.
- Pray for wisdom and trust your instincts. If something just doesn’t feel right or seem to fit, a problem likely exists. Spend time pondering it, talking it over with friends, getting advice from those beta-readers, and doing anything else you can think of that might help you fix it and make your story as excellent as can be!
Do you like the editing/rewriting process? What do you look for when you edit? Do you have any tips to add to this list?
Kelsey Bryant is an author, blogger, and copy editor who loves the Lord. She revels in many things: the beauty of God's Word, the music of English, the wonder of nature, the joy of creativity, the freedom of motion, the richness of literature, the intrigue of history ... and much more. To learn more about her, visit her website or blog.