Editing Your Novel

This is probably a strange topic to write about considering I haven’t been published yet, other than online.   However, I am fortunate to have access to a fantastic editor who has taken time out of her busy day to read my material and offer her viewpoint on revisions (most of which I agree need to be made).   My Mother has been an integral part of my writing journey and has been the editor of a magazine for many, many years.   She’s got a keen eye, and has the technical qualities that are absolutely necessary to create a polished product.   Faithfully, she continues to read my work, and offer her knowledge free of charge, and I take advantage of her expertise whenever possible.

After I finished my novel, I had no idea that I would become so obsessive about editing.  I can find something to change every time I read it; to the point where it is annoying.  Everything I’ve researched tells me to make sure that my final submission is the best exposition I can put together, which is of course true.  The problem, is that if you are a perfectionist, like me, then you’ll read your work over, and over, and over…tweaking and tuning it to death.  It never ends.

I now have first hand experience at how writers can become so easily, and overbearingly attached to their work.  You simply become unable to see it clearly.  The best advice I found to begin the editing process, was to treat my book like a steak – and let it rest.  You have poured your heart and soul into a story and written it under various emotional circumstances, so trust me, you will notice some digression when you start to use the red pen.  I still digress… I’m human.  Writer’s block during the editing phase is a lot easier to deal with than the first time you struggled to describe a complicated scene, because all you need to do is start reading.  Go back to the very beginning (for me, I’ll have to have written about 50 pages of drivel in a journal first) and just start over.  While reading you can see the plot unfolding in your head, and in the beginning, you couldn’t quite articulate it for any number of reasons.  Accept the fact that you will inevitably end up with more than one tortured syntax.   Letting the book rest is the best way to gain clarity, and if you’ve got a house like mine where there is always something to do, it’s easy to follow this advice as long as you have the willpower to stay away from the computer.  When you’re ready to start, adding another trained set of eyes to this process will only make your finished product that much better.

During my last edit session, I brushed up on my transitional skills and I was still able to spot some plot holes.  Having a another person contribute and help you spot the holes and develop your plot is priceless, and for me, completely necessary.   Having this relationship with my Mom has shown me that I am a lot more agreeable than I once thought I was, and that I was just writing in the wrong venue (it’s surprising how much you can accomplish when you actually do something you like).  There are undeniably places that an agent or publisher will probably want to see expounded upon, and others they may want to see me scrap – just like she did.  At that point, I’ll be happy to have their attention long enough thinking the novel is good enough for print, and will realize that the goal is to make the book the very best it can be.  If you’re truly committed to making your book the best it can be, you’ll see that revisions are just part of the process – and almost always necessary.

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8 Responses to “Editing Your Novel”

  1. cherilaser Says:

    Hi! I found your comments very interesting. I’m a writer and editor, and I agree that revising is sort of an ongoing task, but just as important as the initial writing.

    This is a subject I’ve addressed throughout my posts since I launched my blog last November. I invite you to visit and let me know what you think. There are plenty of tips in the posts that you might find helpful.

    Meanwhile, congratulations on finishing a novel!

  2. JB Hill Says:

    Thanks so much! I visited your blog and bookmarked it…

    I am trying to resist the temptation to continue editing, because if I do gain interest I want to be ready to send the manuscript as soon as possible. If I tell myself I’ll just read it again to make sure I’ve taken the reader from one paragraph to the next, I will no doubt start editing all over again.

    • cherilaser Says:

      My suggestion at this point would be to let a few other people read your manuscript and give you input.

      You’ll see a number of posts in my blog that address the importance of putting other eyes on our work. Some courage is required to take that leap, but you don’t want some agent or editor who’s responded to your query to be the first person besides you who’s looking at your work.

      Choose people who will be honest with you (and be prepared to hear things that you might not want to hear)–and choose people who 1) read lots of novels and 2) have some credibility with respect to correct English structure and writing rules. Promise those readers that you’ll put them in your Acknowledgments (and believe me, that’s the least you’ll want to do for them when you see how valuable their input will be in the end).

      Letting others direct our editing efforts will produce a more effective fimal product, because we end up editing areas that stand out to the fresh reader rather than words we’ve seen so many times that we’re really not seeing them clearly anymore.

      If you have a few minutes, scan through all my posts for those sections that deal with my beta readers and that also deal with the two editorial evaluations I received from my publishers. I’m very straightforward in those posts about the things I ended up changing/adding and why.

      And please let me know what you think.

      All the best … Cheri

      • JB Hill Says:

        JB Hill

        That’s a great idea, at this point my editor / Mother and my daughter (it’s YA so she was a good test reader) are the only ones besides me that have read it. I’ve asked a couple of other people to read as well, but they haven’t committed.

        I’ve had good feedback from both of them, and they’ve also helped me spot some troubled areas. I’m handling the criticism pretty well. After all, they aren’t criticizing me, and they aren’t criticizing my writing really… just what I have written. That may be a fine line, but there is a difference.

        I’m very appreciative that people like yourself have taken the time to facilitate the sharing of information for others that are dipping their toes in the pool… like me.

  3. cherilaser Says:

    Find readers who have a stack of book they’re trying to read through. Then ask them if they’d slip your manuscript into their queue. Moms and daughters are great, but they love us too much to be completely objective.

    Try to find one or two readers (maybe friends of friends) who don’t know you very well and would like to play a part in your development.

    I’m hoping we’ll stay in touch!

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