When the final chapter is written the next stage of writing begins. One that is filled with back-and-forth plot improvements, spelling and grammar corrections, rereads and constructive criticism. In this post I will discuss all of this and more, helping you approach editing with the right tools to get the job done.
Let’s get into it!
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Boring Bit: Spelling and Grammar
Spelling and grammar mistakes happen. If you’re anything like me, you don’t like to let the red lines slow you down and you steam forward with the story. The editing phase was initially made for these sorts of errors, so they can wait until after the book is done.
The only problem is the book is done, it’s now time to start going through them all.
Of course, we have the technology to help us solve this problem a lot quicker and easier. Even the most basic of writing software has a handy spelling-checker and grammar mistake locator (although not many help with the grammar corrections). These tools are great for getting through the bulk of the corrections.
However, they are not perfect. Some mistakes will slip through the net. It is up to you to spot and correct them. That means a lot of reading and rereading, but we will discuss that more later.
For now, there are many free services online that will help you find these mistakes and correct them. I tend to settle with the built-in grammar and spelling corrector in Google Docs coupled with Grammarly to get most of the work done. After their barrage of recommended corrections, the rest of the fight is up to me.
There are better services online, but honestly, it all pretty much amounts to the same thing. One thing I don’t recommend is the services that affect your writing style, taking away your personal touches.
Plot Inconsistencies; Second Draft?
Another problem you will encounter, and perhaps the most discouraging, are the plot inconsistencies. This is a big problem in longer novels, or ones that consist of more ‘moving parts’. Too many elements to keep track of is an easy way to create these plot inconsistencies and they can be a pain to correct.
Inconsistencies often impact a writer’s self-esteem or confidence in their story. It makes the writing appear childish with little thought put into its planning. The more problems the writer encounters the more likely they will consider writing a second draft before they dive into editing.
For some, this is a good idea. I don’t like writing second drafts, but have conceded to the idea enough to know that it is necessary when a story is lacking decent structure.
Most of the time a second draft is started because the writing process took so long that the writer came up with new ideas along the way or their style changes too much in the second half. Enough plot contradictions can lead to the same thing. Whether you need to write a second draft is up to you.
For now, let’s talk about correcting plot inconsistencies.
For longer novels, it is important to create a timeline and note all the plot inconsistencies along the way. Take note of these facts and the pages you can find them on, as you don’t want to lose all these problems spots. From there, it’s all about making the necessary corrections.
Yes, this method can lead to some confusion if the errors are many, but as long as you are editing shortly after a read through, it should be easy enough to keep everything in mind.
For novels with a lot of elements, it’s a bit trickier to correct everything. The instinct of a writer is to go from page to page, swatting each error that pops up. A better method is to understand these elements better by examining their foundation, their importance to the story and what aspect needs to be corrected. This will prevent the creation of more inconsistencies during the editing phase.
Try to make the novel as simple as possible when editing, correcting the larger mistakes before correcting the smaller ones.
Intense Reading; Finding Errors
The foundation of any good editing skills is properly critiquing your own writing. Yes, this does mean reading a little slower than is comfortable, but it also means addressing each section as if it could be improved.
You will come across the occasional paragraph that lacks any basic errors, however, that’s not to say it is the best way you can have written that paragraph. Are there some sentences that seem fine, but lack the impact you were aiming for? Then perhaps rewriting that small section will help.
Most of your writing will be fine, so don’t think that it means you will spend weeks brainstorming better sentences to replace the ones in your first chapter. You are trying to find errors, not make them. If you are going to do that, you might as well start a second draft.
Once you get into the right mindset, these sentences will stand out and better versions will come to you.
It’s this mindset that will also separate you from your book, approach it more logically than emotionally. It’s a proud moment to have a book you worked hard on and that pride can easily get in the way of polishing your work. With this emotional distance made, you will be able to properly critique your writing and make those improvements.
Pacing will always jump up and down, but the key is to make sure that your plot is logical and that your pacing matches the type of scene that you present.
A logical plot will include a sequence of events that make sense when the actions of the characters are considered. Most writers will instinctually ensure that each scene is logical, as the ones that are too short or inconsequential will stand out compared to the length and importance of the other scenes.
Something that will be corrected when fixing plot inconsistencies.
However, it is easy to also mess up the pacing of some scenes. The best way to figure out what pacing a scene requires is to consider the tone of the scene. If the characters are more relaxed, or if you want to build up tension, then a slower pace is required. However, if there is an argument or a fight scene or anything that gives the feeling of urgency, the pacing will be faster.
Slower pacing usually includes more dialogue, more descriptions and a suitable selection of words to capture the relaxed atmosphere. Higher pacing requires shorter sentences, fewer descriptions (but still clear descriptions if possible), and also the right selection of words to fit the tone.
Keep this in mind during your reading sessions and it will be easy to spot the moments where the pacing isn’t right.
I will keep this point brief because I have talked about it a lot recently.
Second opinions are a big part of the editing process for any great writer. Writers have a set mentality after enough time, which is great for establishing a clear style of writing. Yet, there are shortfalls, which is why most successful writers have someone who can provide a second perspective on their novel.
That additional perspective helps correct problems that are hard to notice.
Whether it be a friend, family member or another writer, take their advice with a grain of salt. Some changes you will be happy to make and think nothing of, but others you will hesitate or ignore. That is fine. Your gut will tell you what elements you want to keep just as they are.
I have always found the editing process to be a lot less taxing than the writing process. I get to read my work, make adjustments, polish some areas and so on. The process is a lot faster, which is also good for my mentality as I feel I am making a lot of progress.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear from my students when I started teaching that the experience was much the same for them when they were editing.
The methods and tools for editing that I talked about are effective and easy to employ. It can lead to a relaxing experience, listening to music, reading and doing small bursts of writing here and there.
If you have edited some of your work, be it a full novel or a short story, what methods did you develop during the process? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!