It’s time to pull out my WIP manuscript and begin the editing process.
I shelved it 6 weeks ago (I usually do this when I’ve finished writing a story) because I need distance, I need a break away and fresh eyes for when I return. Without a decent break, I can’t see my story as it really is, warts and all.
Firstly, I type out and bullet point the main events happening in each chapter. Every event gets one line only. Each chapter gets its own page, so 20 chapters equals 20 pages. Print the lot off. Next, I lay my 20 sheets on the floor in order. Then I read my summarised story through, looking for plot holes, or events that dominate and need to be pared back. I can’t see the story as a whole until I’ve done this spread-out-on-the-floor-thing. Sometimes I rearrange chapters, putting them in a different order.
Next, I look at the characters themselves. The protagonist should have the biggest part. The others should be represented in order of importance. Is anyone getting too much or missing out? Are they all unique and distinctly different? Does each character have his own goals, motivation, conflict? Does each character grow and change by the end? Is the hero and heroine appealing, with decent character flaws (no sugar sweet characters for me)? Is the baddie, bad enough? Do my characters act in a true-to-themselves way.
Next, I look at the phrases. Am I using fresh imagery and avoiding all clichés? Be on the look out for overused words, ideas and overused dialogue tags (he said, curling his lip, or she said, gritting her teeth). Is the dialogue snappy and does it have a natural flow? Do I have a good mix of action, thoughts and dialogue? Be vigilant about showing rather than telling.
The ending. If you’re writing romance, you must have a satisfying ‘Happy Ever After.’ Do not end the book too abruptly. Romance readers like to enjoy a drawn out HEA. But, the reward must not be too easily won. It must be well deserved.
I’m aware that I haven’t mentioned spelling and grammar. By this stage I can’t see spelling mistakes or typos. If I was self publishing, I’d need to put the manuscript away again, for another few weeks break. But if I’m going with a publisher, then I’d press submit, and hope to pick the typos up during the in-house editing process.
I know that this is a hell of a lot of work. But, each book needs to be as good as we can make it.
I’d love to hear about other ways to edit.