5 Ways to Actually Enjoy Editing Your Novel

5 Ways to Actually Enjoy Editing Your Book

I recently found myself in the “writing” subreddit, offering my two cents in the discussion. One of the questions that seemed to ring a bell with a few writers was, “Why can’t I bring myself to edit?” Writing seemed to be the easy part. Editing your book? Not so much.

Here at CompletelyNovel, we find that editing makes all the difference when publishing a book. It’s what puts your work in the same league as the books on your bookshelf. If you dread editing, it can help to think of it in the same way as you do your writing. Both writing and editing are as much about creativity as they are about discipline and planning.

Below are some of the top tips I’ve picked up to manage and, dare I say it, even make editing enjoyable!

1. Set Yourself Targets for Writing and Editing Your Book

Rather than steaming straight into editing, spend some time planning. Take lessons from your writing routine.

Do you prefer to write in the morning, or in the evening?

Do you need solitude, or can you freely scribble away in a noisy café?

You may set yourself a word limit to reach each day. Setting achievable goals keep you motivated to put pen to paper. A thousand words you’re not proud of is better than no words at all, after all.

You can use the same ideas to plan your editing. Again, consider the way you write.

Do you find that you run out of steam quickly? Then you might find it useful to schedule in an editing day after several days of writing.

Or maybe you prefer to write the whole thing first and edit after? That’s okay, just remember to break your editing into achievable goals like you did your writing. Editing a thousand words a day sounds much more doable than editing the entire novel.

2. Understand Editing Your Book Comes in Different Forms

There are three well-known stages of editing:

1. Structural.

2. Copyediting.

3. Proofreading.

Each is equally important, and they work best in that order.

Structural Editing

Our Get Your Book Fit sums up structural editing really well. Structural editing focuses on the basic elements of storytelling, things such as narrative drive, pacing, structure, and point of view.

Copyediting

Copyediting on the other hand, is about polishing the surface: correcting mistakes in usage, continuity, grammar, and style.

Proofreading

Proofreading is the very last stage of editing–identifying and correcting all the remaining errors. There’s no use spending months correcting typos only to realize you need to rewrite half the book for it to make sense structurally, after all!

3. Edit With Fresh Perspective

Don’t underestimate the importance of giving your mind a rest between writing and editing. Stephen King famously leaves six weeks between writing and editing his manuscript. Again, how much time you need depends on how you work. Some writers take a few days and some take a few weeks.

4. Improve Your Line Editing

This can be a bit time consuming, but rest assured it is time well invested. Separate your sentences and think about whether each of them makes sense both on its own and within a wider context. Look closely at your choice of words and get rid of any phrases or words that are unnecessary or cliché.

I’ve found line editing is easier on a computer. Isolate every sentence on a separate line and use double spacing so you can clearly see the length and pacing of each sentence. Read the sentence out loud to discover how it flows and whether any words are jarring.

5. Print Your Manuscript

No, I’m not going to tell you off for preferring screen to paper, but printing a draft of your novel can be a useful process for spotting further mistakes. Words look different on a printed page. Plus, it’s nice to give your eyes a break. Shut down the computer, do some eye yoga (yes, really), and embrace that red pen as your best friend.

Remember, no book was ever published without editing. Sit back, unleash the red pen, cram your mouth full of cake, and enjoy yourself. Your book will be all the better for it!

Tell me your opinion: What is your greatest challenge in editing your book?

Five ways  to Actually Enjoy Editing Your Book

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About Adriana Bielkova | @CompletelyNovel

Adriana Bielkova is part of the communications team at CompletelyNovel, a friendly publishing platform and author community specializing in print-on-demand. You can find more editing tips in our Get Your Book Fit course, featuring advice from top editors, agents and authors.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this, Adriana! I just started editing a few days ago, so I haven’t yet hit a wall where it’s not enjoyable…but I know it’s coming, sooner or later. Drafting IS the easy part, as I recently discovered when I finished my first draft of 90K words in just a few months (while working a full-time job!). These tips will definitely help when I’m tempted to tear the whole thing to shreds and yell, “What was I thinking?” Thanks again for the post!

    • Hi Cecilia,

      Thanks for your comment! Wow, you should definitely be proud of your first draft even if you think it´s not that great! Well done on writing a book while keeping a full-time job! I´m sure you´ll get there with the editing eventually – in your case the right schedule could be the answer. Don´t be too harsh on yourself and take it easy, divide it into as many sections as you need and edit step by step. Good luck!

      Adriana

  2. Great post, very practical. I’ve got two rough drafts completed and I’m finishing off a third, but editing just seems so daunting. I think this is especially true when for the drafts I didn’t outline, as I find the idea of fixing fundamental structural issues terrifying. Thanks for the tips, I look forward to trying them out

    • Hi Daniel,

      Ah yes, the evil that is structural editing! I think you´ve got what it takes to do this! Maybe its also a learning lesson for the future – now you know that it´s easier if you clearly write out your plot and structure in advance. I´m glad that you´ve found this post helpful!

      Adriana

  3. Much of the fear of editing comes from the realization that, after all the time you’ve spent climbing the mountain to complete that first draft, there’s still another peak to climb. There is fun to be found, though, in that combination of creativity and problem-solving that follows. Or at least I find it fun. But then I *am* an editor.

    • Hi Harrison,

      I think you´ve got the right attitude towards editing. I myself actually find writing the most daunting part – especially staring at a blank paper just fills me with terror. I usually start writing because I remind myself that editing is WHERE IT´S AT, where the magic stuff happens 🙂

      Adriana

  4. thomas h cullen says:

    Adriana, based on my own experience, as long as you’re prepared to write only what’s needed, there is no challenge:

    I “edited” The Representative down to under five thousand words, from what had once existed at over seventy thousand. The reason? That was all that was required, in order to get the right balance.

    Editing as a challenge is a largely externally-imposed reality, one that can be just as sizeably negated by just honest storytelling.

    (Good article.)

  5. K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

    Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Adriana!

  6. My biggest challenge is not drop-kicking the whole manuscript across the room. Or just hitting delete. Everything sounds cliche and basic when I’m in editing mode. It’s tough to view it realistically.
    I follow your advice though. I finally realized I needed to set editing goals. Two chapters today or three scenes today. The biggest thing is to get up every 30 minutes and walk around, stretch my back, whatever. When my butt goes to sleep, I get cranky. Which doesn’t help my outlook on the words I’m trying to perfect.
    Thanks for sharing your insights.

    • Hi Sharon,

      That´s a good point – you talk about stretching your back and taking a walk. I think it´s really important to regularly stretch your mind while editing. This can happen by taking breaks and doing exercise or going for a walk or just giving your brain a break by engaging in a different mental activity. Have you tried taking a longer break between the writing and editing stage? I find at least a couple of days help but the bigger the manuscript, the longer break I usually need. It´s all down to the planning and scheduling, really.

      Adriana

  7. Thanks for sharing such a well thought out and concise overview of the editing process by by ADRIANA BIELKOVA. I really enjoyed it.

  8. robert easterbrook says:

    Adriana, thanks for making that clear to me – I only knew edit and edit. My query is when do you decide you’ve done enough editing? I mean, if you give yourself a tick for Structural, Copyediting and Proofediting (or you get them ticked off by someone), how much more should you do? Every book I read these days seems to have a typo or two in it; some a lot more. Yet these books were published by a reputable publisher. Is this some kind of proletarian quirkiness? [Said with tongue in cheek.] You’ve got to have at least one typo in your book to be considered great (e.g Tolstoy)? 😉

    • Hi Robert,

      Hmm, that´s an interesting question. I think you should edit until you know this is the best you can do. There´s always going to be that odd typo. When I recently completed my undergraduate thesis, I proofread it a million times and it was read by others too, yet I still found some really silly typos when I was glancing through the final printed version. My advice would be to give yourself enough time and take breaks inbetween all the editing stages. With proofreading, just read and read and read again and again and of course, give it to others to read too. They will spot the stuff you can´t see.

      Adriana

  9. I don’t print my manuscripts, because they’re almost 400 pages and that’s a LOT of paper and ink even with a laser jet. What I do is put them on my Nook. It gives me that different reading experience without going through half a ream of paper. I keep a notebook handy and make notes as I read.

    Not ideal for everyone, but works great for me.

    • Hi Rachel,

      that´s a great tip! Thanks for sharing with us, I´m sure there are authors out there that would prefer not to print so much and make use of the devices they already own.

      Adriana

  10. 6. While doing all five steps, set aside some time for researching experienced and reliable professional editors-for-hire. Get an extra part-time job if necessary to pay for this service. When you’ve finished editing your manuscript and are convinced it’s perfect, contract with the editor you’ve chosen to make sure your own five-step program has not been conducted in a state of delusion. It’s possible your manuscript doesn’t need step six, but better safe than sorry.

  11. Actually, I enjoy editing a lot. In fact, I’ve been editing my trilogy for the past three years and I still enjoy it.

    For me, editing is when the story really comes to life, maybe because my first drafts are awful and very essencial. Where others have to cut, I normally have to add.
    But seriusly, how can you not enjoy dicovering your characters, their personality, their reasons? How can you not enjoy discovering parallels and connections that were only intuitive in the first draft and can become a powerful storyteller’s tool once you become aware of them? Unpackage all the exposition and turn it into episodes. Discovering the world around the charactes when in the first draft you were too much absorbed into what the hell was going on.

    Writing a first draft is thrilling, but editing… well, for me is exciting like going on an adventure 🙂

    • thomas h cullen says:

      All true, JF. But perhaps then the word “editing” should be replaced, for just “discovering”.

      The experience of ‘The Representative’ would fit with this term. Having re-shaped and re-shaped the language and context of the story due to merely having further and further discovered it.

      A lot of it’s still just personal subjectivity, and arbitrariness (There’s no such thing as a novel that’s realistic, not even just mostly – it’s just the skill of the writer to know how to convince, via good “editing”.)

    • I agree with you, Thomas. Editing is when my story comes alive! I write scenes. So when it comes to putting it all together, it is a whole new book. It takes more writing to sync up the chapters and defines the personalities of the characters…making sure they are consistent from when I started. It is the proofreading that drives me crazy…all those little mistakes that you don’t see!!!

      • thomas h cullen says:

        You speak exactly as I think, Elizabeth (thank you!). In practice, creating a story usually does become a task of playing with a rubix cube. You edit somewhere late, only then to find you need to re-arrange somewhere early, and so on.

        The Representative was kind of a let off, actually; from the start, Croyan and his story were wholly self-reflective.

        (Finding Jane, is that fiction?)

        • Yes, historical romance novel. Got my first rejection as of today. I feel so official! Well, at least they asked to read the whole manuscript. (And then decided to pass…hmmmm, maybe I should rethink that is a good thing.) Ha…life goes on and I submit more queries…..keep writing.

          • thomas h cullen says:

            That was a surprise to know! (And I respect the positivity you respond with.)

            After nearly fifty agents, never just one’s asked to read The Representative: the template of writing is too transgressive.

  12. I think the hardest thing for me is being consistent. Even if I make a mistake in grammar if I am consistent in that mistake, well, sometimes it is all right.

  13. Pam Portland says:

    Adriana,

    What great insight! I had been doing quite a bit of sentence-by-sentence editing and I thought that was necessary because I was not a strong enough writer and my sentences need that much TLC. Good to know that is a technique on the right path.

    My other challenge with editing versus writing is that when I write, I keep a consistent pace throughout. With editing, I often hop around a bit more (i.e. if I changed this idea in chapter 7, I have to go back and change this plot point in chapter 4), so I find less consistent thought patterns because I am stopping and restarting in a variety of places. Any ideas?

    Pam

  14. Asisha Joseph says:

    Greatest challenge? I’m too scared. Even if I manage to sit at my table and start editing, I give up after a page or two. I’m not lazy (I think) just easily discouraged. I suppose there’s no way to combat that except by sheer will power?

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