In 2018 you wrote a novel, and in 2019 you have a new, even more terrifying goal: to edit that novel into something worth publishing. You know the first step is to reread the first draft, so you've printed it out (or at least moved it to an ebook reader so you can look at it with a fresh perspective), bought a notebook for editing notes, and gotten a shiny, red pen. But what exactly are you looking for?
Since this is your first edit, we suggest focusing on major story components. This prevents you from spending hours fixing a sentence only to throw away the entire scene later.
Here are some questions to focus on during your initial edit:
Does the story begin with action?
Do readers know who the main character is right away?
Do all of the plot points make sense?
Does the main character grow in an obvious way?
Are there any points where the story feels rushed?
Are there any points where the story drags?
Do readers get a sense of the larger world beyond your story?
Do all of your characters feel like real people with consistent characterization?
As a reader, how do you feel at the end of the story? Is it the same feeling you wanted to convey as a writer?
Does the ending answer all of the most important questions about the story?
If you're planning to write a sequel, have you left a sufficient sequel hook to keep people interested?
Editing a book is an intimidating task, especially the first time around. These questions and your answers to them will guide you in the right direction and help you fix your novel.
If you're feeling overwhelmed by all of these questions, know that you don't need to fix everything on the first edit. In fact, most books go through at least three self-edits before they ever see a professional editor (which is preferred). Waiting until your book is truly ready is always better than publishing a story too soon.
Dianna Gunn is the author of the fantasy novel “Moonshadow's Guardian” and the Write Plan content writer. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.
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