If I tell you it took me one year to write my book, and three to edit, would you laugh or would you laugh?
I remember spending hours on my script, researching my arguments thoroughly, and putting in my time in the chair.
But when I read through it (my vomit draft). I knew deep down it wasn’t good. The ideas I assumed were extraordinary didn’t quite hold up, the writing was miserable, and there were gaps in the research.
In my defence, I was writing a book for the first time, and I didn’t how to edit a book.
Chances are, if you’re anything like me, you too have struggled with the same problem. Editing a novel can be painful, but it is a rewarding process.
In this article on ‘how to edit a book,’ I bring to you some of the best self-editing tips I’ve received over the last couple of years.
When you’ve focused on your first draft for so long, it’s almost impossible to switch gears. Your brain may not process errors in your writing.
Hence, to produce your best work, you’ve to take breaks between creating, self-editing, and refining it. Stepping away from the script allows your work to mature in your mind.
You become more analytical and less emotionally attached to it. As a result, your mind makes clear decisions. If improving overall quality requires rearranging paragraphs, justifying a metaphor, or deleting an entire chapter, you wouldn’t shy away from it.
Stephen King, in his book titled, ‘On Writing’ mentions he takes a 6-week break after finishing the first draft of his book. He won’t start self-editing until that deadline has elapsed.
You don’t have to follow the 6-week rule. If it’s a novel, you may opt for a three-month break. If it’s an article, 24-hours is enough. Your time-out period should be proportional to the length of the book/article you’ve written.
During this break, I usually read masters from my niche and observe how they’ve nailed their scripts.
Pacing refers to the rhythm and flow of a story, the speed it which it unfolds. How slowly or quickly, events are happening, and the rise or falls of plot points.
Well-controlled pacing is crucial; otherwise, your story will feel disjointed and uneven. Parts that are too slow bore the readers, while parts that are too fast lose impact. Let’s dive into a few quick tips on tuning the pace of your first draft:
While editing a novel, it’s crucial to strip it down to its essence. Keep checking if everything you’ve included is necessary. Does it contribute to character development, plot, or reader’s experience? Is there a character, prose, or a scene that you love, but it doesn’t serve a purpose and slows down the pace. If yes, you’ve to be brave and kill those sections.
- Use simple words, short sentences and shorter paragraphs to keep them flipping pages. Chop long sentences to keep the reader’s eyes flying over words.
- Use more dialogue instead of long-winded descriptions. Dialogues can be a great way of showing your character’s personalities.
- Limit or remove secondary subplots that slow the pace and take the reader away from the main story.
- Increase urgency with exciting action scenes. A race against time. A fight scene. A chase.
- Use active voice
- Remove unnecessary adverbs and adjectives.