So you have your first draft! Yay!
Where to go from here? Well, first, get yourself a support group of fellow writers: a variety of ages and experiences are always a plus. It takes a village to raise a writer and their book-baby!
TIP: Change your font and font size before editing and leave your work alone for a few days at least before you start! You will come back to it refreshed and the change of font and size will make your brain think it’s looking at something new. Then you won’t miss things your brain knows should be there, like missing words or incomplete sentences, small typing errors and so on.
- Figure out a colour code with highlighters. Either in your doc, or hard copy. Write out the code, label your pens. Yellow for typos and spelling/grammar/punctuation errors, green for dialogue that doesn’t work, pink for a plot hole, and so on.
- READ IT. Just read it. Spot something? Highlight it. Don’t change it. Keep reading.
- Go back and edit the draft for the usual things: grammar, punctuation, spelling.
- Give yourself a break if you can. Go do something else. Come back to the draft tomorrow or the next day, or next week if you’re not working to a deadline.
TIP: Use the speak function in Word to get Word to read your document for you. Listening to it rather than reading it will help you get a feel of the pacing, the plot holes, the lengthy descriptions (or not lengthy enough?) and give you ideas on where and how to change your text. Adobe Acrobat has similar accessibility features so you could save to .pdf and try it that way too.
- Go back through your highlighted text, one colour at a time, and edit. Having read it through all the way, does it need a bit more restructuring? Should the scenes need more action? Less action? Does everything in the chapter contribute to the plot and character development?
- Get an extra pair of eyes on your work. Find a Critique Partner [CP] or beta-reader (or several!) and get them to read it. Your finished work will be stronger if you work with reader feedback. This doesn’t mean that you should change absolutely everything, but you should learn how to take criticism of your work and try to take pointers on board. ESPECIALLY pay attention if someone tells you that a character or plot line is offensive to a particularly marginalised and/or an under-represented group.
#AuthorConfession: I’ve been trying to do much better in this area: I’ve been made more aware of where my own [privileged] blind spots are by feedback (in some cases I really wish I’d had it sooner, which goes to show that sensitivity/diversity readers are ALWAYS a good idea). I don’t always listen like I should, for which I’m very sorry, so don’t be me and LISTEN to people. Try reading threads on Twitter/other social media platforms from the perspectives of others, do your research into sensitive topics, and don’t contribute to be defensive of your own position. Just listen and learn.
- Ok so you’ve revised again using feedback! Is it as polished as it could be? Well, if you’re happy with it, start querying. Use any feedback you get to polish it further. Buddy up with other querying and editing authors! If you haven’t already, get yourself a support group and help each other out.
Want some more editing tips? I have two Pinterest boards FULL of editing-based content to help you out!
How To Edit Board [subsection of the Writing Advice board]
Editing Board [subsection of the Editing/Marketing/Publishing board]