Revision is to ice cream as editing is to the sprinkles on top. Sure, it’s still dessert without the sprinkles, but that final touch is what perfects it, makes it irresistible.
Now that you’ve looked after the BIG problems during the revision phase, you have to think SMALL, er… small. Editing is all about polishing your prose and cleaning up the tiny errors hidden throughout your writing.
What to look out for when editing your work:
All writers get tired. And when we get tired, we get lazy. Sentences seem to blur together, and if you’re not careful, they can all start to sound alike. Maybe they all begin with the same word like “I” or “When”. Or they could share a certain rhythm, which is easier to catch when you read your work aloud.
Issues with your plot pacing should have been identified during the revision stage, so now fine tune it on every page, in every paragraph, every sentence. Perhaps your characters’ conversation has become monotonous. Could something break this scene up? Even a gesture or an action, such as scratching one’s head or moving toward the window, can make the scene feel as though it’s alive, as though it has movement. Imagine if characters in a film didn’t move for an entire scene. It would be pretty boring to watch. It’s the same when a scene plays out in your reader’s head.
Cut the Cliches.
Unless it’s a particular quirk for your character, cut out those cliched phrases. They might sound really clever when you write it, but it will have agents, editors, and your readers rolling their eyes.
This might seem obvious but you’d be surprised at how often it’s forgotten. However, spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. Don’t skim your work. Read it word for word. Because ‘I’d like to try a bowl of soup’ is a lot different than ‘I’d like to try a bowel of soup.’
If a single paragraph goes on for longer than half a page, take another look at it. Can it be split up? White space on a page gives the reader’s eyes a break and makes it easier to follow the lines of text.
This refers to the actual look of your document such as sequential chapters or titles, consistent use of formatting or indents, and so on.
Watch Your Tenses.
If you’re not paying close attention, you can switch the tense of your narration from he said to he says or she runs to she ran. It’s pretty common so keep an eye out for it.
At some point during this process, when you feel it’s ready, a second pair of eyes is essential. It’s impossible to be completely objective when it comes to your own work. Feedback from an outsider can point out problems with your story that elude us no matter how many times we read it, or perhaps you’ve been ignoring the obvious (something I’ve been guilty of plenty of times). We all need someone to slap some sense into us and point out the obvious.
Congratulations to the following people who won a copy of Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass:
I wish I could give everyone who commented on Four Easy Steps To Start Revising Your Novel a copy, but thank you to everyone who gave some great tips on novel revision. And try again when I have my next giveaway!