I recently started editing the rough first draft of my novel, and boy is it rough. I don’t remember being that bad of a writer when I started on that project. But, that doesn’t exactly matter because it’s only the edited work that people see. I’ve used this method on a few of my short stories and it’s always served me well. So, here are my steps to editing your writing.
- General Editing: This where you go through and edit any spelling mistakes, take out any superficial words, any punctuation errors, grammar, and other proofreading fixes.
- Flow: It’s important that your story has a certain flow and rhythm to it. Go through and read each sentence aloud as if you’re reading it in front of a class, or you can put the text through text-to-speech software. Add punctuation, cut individual words, or add entire sentences so it reads better. Any awkward spots, or sections that don’t quite make sense, or anything too cluttered should be reworked or cut.
- Story: Now that the text has been worked out, it’s time to work on the story. Go through and ask yourself if each decision or reaction from a character makes sense. Did their personalities stay consistent throughout? What about their mannerisms? Take a step back from the text and think about every little thing in the story. Is it believable? Did it achieve the affect intended, and, if not, what can be changed to get this desired affect? The story should resonate with the reader but too many unbelievable scenarios or fake emotions is off-putting.
- Feedback: Now that the story is complete, or at least you think it is, it’s time to get some feedback on it. You can ask anyone really. Maybe you and your friends can trade stories for a critique or ask your significant other, or if you really don’t know anyone interested there’s always people on the internet that give a good critique. For reddit users, /r/Writing has a popular weekly critique thread, or there’s dedicated feedback subreddits such as /r/KeepWriting and of course /r/DestructiveReaders. But please not: if you are going to submit here please offer a critique to a previous poster so everyone gets feedback. Once you’ve gotten feedback on your story take consideration for each suggestion. Pick and choose which suggestions would work and which things you want to stay the same. Whether it be word choice or story points, it’s still your story. Feedback can be helpful but it’s still only one person’s suggestion.
- Finalize: So this is it. You’ve edited everything to perfection and gotten feedback on it. Your writing is tight and the story is believable/enjoyable. It never hurts to read it one last time to yourself or put it through another text-to-speech processor. But once this is done what next? Well you can pat yourself on the back and move on to the next project, you can submit it to websites such as Booksie, Deviantart, or Writers Cafe (Please note these websites are always hit or miss with things like readers, feedback, quality and overall satisfaction), or you can submit it to different literary journals for consideration and spread your story to more readers.
A few more general notes. People always say that openings need to be engaging and catch the readers attention, but rarely do people explain this. It doesn’t always have to mean your story should open with a gunfight or huge explosions, just some sort of enticing verb. Something that immediately puts an image in the readers mind and opens up their interest to learn more.
Endings should be memorable. I love the feeling when I put down a book and it’s like I was just punched in the stomach. Make the reader feel something, put them in shock and awe and disbelief. There doesn’t have to be a twist ending for this but just something that will last with them. It’s no good if after the climax a story teeters off and dies out at the end, it needs to be consistent.
One last thing. Writing is your art. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Don’t be afraid to change perspectives or say something controversial, art is not apologetic.