Last week, I spoke about the importance of taking a short break in between writing your first draft and revising your manuscript. Therefore, it’s only natural that this week, I talk about the next stage of the process: the early steps of editing a novel. Here a few tips and pointers for debate.

the pilot p-500

Matthew C. Wright via Compfight

Sort out those typos!

Many authors and bloggers argue that the ‘right’ way to start editing is to ignore the typos initially, and go straight into a structural/content edit. I tried this, but due to the fact that I hadn’t edited my first draft as I wrote it, I found it highly frustrating. So, you have my permission to iron out any niggling typos or grammatical issues as a first step, if you wish. Nothing major though: don’t go rewriting scenes just yet. Make sure you simply take the time to tidy it all up so that you have something that resembles more of a book than the ramblings of a madman. If your book is the ramblings of a madman, then you can gladly skip this step.

Create a map of your novel

Roz Morris argues that all writers should create a ‘beat sheet’ of scenes in your novel, which is basically a big spreadsheet outlining the content of your book, with highlights of scenes to edit, and the like. This can be a fun stage for the visual learners amongst us, however I found myself simply using the beat sheet as an overview ahead of an editing guide. Feel free to follow Roz’s fantastic advice if you wish, or if you’re less of a fan of colourful planning and pretty highlighting, it’s still a good document to have to get a grasp on how your novel develops. More important than line editing right now, is understanding what works and what doesn’t in your book. A beat sheet is a great way to assess this.

Now for the BIG read through…

Yes, I know; you want to hurry up and get editing your novel, and all this reading through seems like a lot to be doing without actually getting anywhere, but you’ll be surprised just how far it takes you. With What We Saw, I certainly was. This time, read through your printed manuscript/iPad PDF/anything but the screen you wrote it on, with a pen and paper in hand. Every time you spot an inconsistency, jot it down. A moment that comes off as too melodramatic? Make a note. What you’re essentially creating is a working checklist of things to edit. A mistake I made initially with my What We Saw checklist was not splitting it up into digestible chunks. I suggest individual sessions of analysing twenty-pages, which should translate to the final edit nicely.

I’m currently in the process of implementing my checklist changes. I intend to read through it all once more when I’ve finished to make the necessary final tweaks, before sending it to an editor. Edit, edit, edit – I hate the sound of that bloody word.

How do you edit your work? What initial steps do you take after completing the first read through of your manuscript?