As NaNoWriMo Comes to an end, how do we effectively edit a novel?

I love editing. Friends and family will send me school assignments knowing that I will enjoy taking a red pen (or track changes in Word) to their paper. When it comes to my writing, I am much less enthusiastic about editing the things I’ve written. But, editing is an essential part of writing a story because no one wants to read a story they can barely understand.

No one can write a perfect first draft, but it can be hard for authors to read their first (second, or third) drafts without wanting to hold the backspace key down until it’s gone. Here are 3 ways that you can enrich your writing, and better your next draft.

Find A Trusted Friend To Help

In high school, my good friend and cheerleader was a girl named Hannah. Every other day, I wanted to rewrite a scene because I really struggled with how I had written it. It wasn’t until I told her about the book that I was able to move forward in my writing. I could make a comment about a scene, believing it wasn’t ‘perfect’ (which, by the way, it never will be), and she was there to reassure me that it worked. 

The truth is, us writers often worry that people won’t like our stories, and that is where our harshest criticism comes from. Opening myself up to the possibility that someone would like my writing gave me a lot of confidence in what I had written. Plus, I would have deleted my first manuscript if my friends hadn’t been there to remind me that my first draft did not have to be perfect.

Read Your Writing Aloud

This seems so simple, but I never would have thought of it. I learned this in an English class, and it has become my salvation. Reading is much faster than speaking, and slowing down helps catch mistakes. Also, if you read in your head, your mind tends to fill in mistakes automatically since you know what words were supposed to go there.

Additionally, sometimes with grammar or even dialogue, it can be easier to say things out loud to fix problematic statements. Certain things might sound robotic or monotone that seemed better at the time of your writing. Hearing what you wrote can help you decide what to keep in your next draft.

Set Realistic Goals

Here are a few examples of realistic goals:

  • I will have a second draft of Chapter 1 on Monday.
  • I will send my first draft to [insert name of trusted friend here] before I start my second draft.
  • I will limit the amount of scenes I delete from my story to [insert a sensible number here]. 
  • I will read out loud one chapter per day. 

It is important to remember that editing and rewriting are not synonymous. In some cases, a rewrite is necessary, but do not immediately begin rewriting anything. Your first draft is never going to be perfect. But, it never will be if you delete it after realizing that it is messy. Commit to your story, because it is going to be amazing (even if it’s a mess right now). 

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