When you pen down the “The End” in your novel, you may think that you have crossed the finish line in the race. However, composing a novel is a triathlon of researching, writing, and editing. So essentially, you have only conquered two-thirds of the battle and stepped into the final leg.
Any writer worth their salt admits that editing is the most tedious task that there is. It is an art that converts an out of shape draft into a polished, finished product.
So if you face issues while editing your writings, you are not alone. To help you slay these dragons, and aid you in your quest, here are a few invaluable tips for flawlessly editing your novels:
Cut Yourself Some Slack
Upon reading your first draft in the book writing app, you may come across some glaring mistakes, grammatical goof-ups, plotholes, or gaps in the research part. Quite honestly, that’s perfectly natural, and everyone has been there. Interestingly, several writers call their first draft a “vomit draft,” which explains how everyone feels about their piece.
However, don’t let these issues discourage or dishearten you from pulling up your socks and get busy shaping up the draft once again! Regardless of the sentence construction or the writing flow, or how you articulate your ideas, you need to give yourself credit for completing the project. Just think of all those writers who may have abandoned their book midway!
You write the first draft for introspection, not for your readers. It acts as a compass to give you direction as to where your novel is heading. There is a possibility that the work may require several revisions, which is the point of editing.
But during the entire process, rather than beating yourself up, be kind.
Get The Right Tools
You could pick the classic Microsoft Word or Google Docs to get your first draft out. However, when things get serious with editing, you may need something more niche and powerful to execute the desired effect.
For example, if you were writing a script, you would need script writing software.
Here are a few primary features that your editing tool must possess:
- Basic or high-level grammar and spell checks
- Quick navigation, especially for large manuscripts
- Ability to store drafts and restore them
- Test for readability and plagiarism
- Word counter
Find a user-friendly and intuitive tool, ideally something that you are already comfortable with, and you will find editing to be a piece of cake.
Identify Your Common Writing Mistakes
Once the editing tool has pointed out the basic mistakes in your writing, make it a point to analyze them to understand the ones that take place too frequently and keep your eyes peeled to locate other such instances.
You may even create a checklist comprising of your standard writing mistakes and start with those. It is one of the quickest ways to catch simple errors and address them.
Eliminate the Unnecessary Words
Famed writer Ernest Hemingway believed that removing adverbs was one of the best ways to streamline your writing. While you may disagree with Hemingway and choose to introduce floral components to your writing deliberately, there are a few unnecessary portions that you can do away with. Some of these include:
- Semantic repetition.
- Unnecessary literary devices.
- Vague descriptors.
- Useless modifiers.
- Words like totally, absolutely, completely, definitely, literally, etc.
The point is to make every word and sentence in your novel earn its place. It should contribute to the value or the flow or any other critical aspect that would make your novel enjoyable for readers. You do not want to lose their interest in the middle of a book, but keep them hanging until the very last word.
Try a Few Tried and Tested Editing Tricks
While the fancy tools can help you navigate the tides of editing, you can also bank on a few approaches that will make it easier for you to identify issues in your script.
An effective trick for self-editing involves printing out the manuscript and editing it the old school way – with pen and paper. This strategy allows you to focus on your piece without any distractions.
Another trick for editing is through the magic of sound. Your ears may pick up something that your eyes may have skipped in the sea of words. Get a text-to-speech reader or record yourself reading the script, and give the audio a listen. You will find yourself spotting errors that you had missed entirely.
Prioritize The Edits
Editing is important. But it is more important to assign priority to the editing task.
How often have you found yourself editing and re-editing the same paragraph over and over again until it starts to lose sense entirely?
This catastrophic cycle is a sign of your brain flooding with ideas and your internal writing interfering with your internal editor’s work. In this case, the best approach would be to highlight or underline the content and get back to it later.
In fact, you can create a legend of all the markups and their meanings depending on the nature of the editing that the piece requires.
Take Adequate Breaks
Don’t treat your editing task as a sprint when it is indeed a marathon. And the quickest way to sustain your endurance through this marathon is through occasional breaks.
After editing a scene or a chapter, take a break and let your thoughts marinate. Take time to pore over how you feel about the writing and work out if there is room to make it better.
Taking breaks allows you to get rid of the familiarity, which may cause you to skip over the mistakes. Once you have edited the entire novel, give yourself a week or more and only then get back to editing.
Note down your thoughts and ideas during this hiatus to drain out the ideas. If you feel too restless during this period or fear that you are losing out on precious time, you can share your copy with your mentor or writing groups to see what they have to say.
While it may seem imposing, you can transform it into a fun activity depending on how you perceive it. Read, re-read, and edit on loop until you are pleased with the end product.
Like any other skill, editing takes practice. Hence, give it the due time that it deserves. Because once you have mastered it, there is no stopping you!
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