Having been through the process of gaining a professional editor’s feedback on my work, I’m well acquainted with the complexity of this task. They are professionals. They have experience. They have to read a lot of dross in order to know what makes something good. It therefore seems a no-brainer to say that DIY editing is not for the fainthearted.
The *occasional* lack of perspective that goes hand in hand with having created a novel from scratch, brings about a simultaneous blindness to its faults. It’s a little like having a child, though quieter.
Finding perspective – a ‘cold eye’ – on your own work is no easy task. Advice is usually to put your manuscript away and forget about it for as long as possible, so that when you come back to it weeks or months later it doesn’t hold quite the same rapture over you that it did when it was new.
Personally, I’m not sure how helpful this is. I tend to find that when I start re-reading what I have written, I get swept up in all the feelings and thoughts that I had when I wrote the thing – I love it as it is. That’s why I wrote it that way in the first place!
Maybe more helpful is a kind of editor’s checklist.
- Do the central characters move through an emotional arc, changing and growing?
- Are the characters believable/likeable?
- Is their dialogue and interaction naturalistic?
- Does each chapter begin with a hook and end with a page turner?
- Is the pacing consistent throughout?
- Does the climax pack an emotional punch?
- Is the resolution satisfying?
So much for plotting. I’m sure there are a hundred other considerations on top of these, but I know that when I read, these are the things that make the biggest difference to me. Anything you’d like to add?
Once these fundamentals are in place, editing gets anal. It’s all about the language and expression. Making your prose crisp and effective is the holy grail.
There are some great posts out there giving detailed advice on this, but my personal favourite is ‘take out the adverbs’. As a writer who seems to throw adverbs about the place with gay abandon in most of my writing, it is perversely enjoyable taking them all out when I’ve finished. They are like a security blanket for me when I’m in the midst of a work in progress. When I’m finished, they just seem like fluff…
There’s an easy-to-use post here that outlines the ten top tips for line editing. Take a look and let me know what you think. Are there any editing tips that you’d like to share?