Friday, June 8, 2018

How To Write A Novel Readers Love - The Editing

Dear Novelist,

Okay, you did it. I’ll bet you can’t believe it. But you did it.

You have just written the first draft of your novel. You have a complete manuscript. Congratulations!

Now, what do you do with it? Well, you edit it, of course. But…
How do you edit a novel?

This can be a puzzling and overwhelming question. Editing can be a puzzling and overwhelming subject. Bookstores have shelves filled with books on how to edit fiction. And if you Google articles on how to edit your novel, you’re bound to receive a deluge of different answers. You’d think you were trying to drink from a fire hose.

On the subject of editing a novel, I can only tell you how I edited the manuscript for my young adult novel, From Bad Girl To Worse. I will share with you the steps I took through the self-editing process, as well as choosing the professional editor I ended up working with to complete a polished final draft.

The first thing I did when I typed the last word of the first draft of my novel was put it away for a week. I didn't open the MS Word document containing my story. I didn’t look at it—not at all. In fact, I don't even think I cracked open my computer.

This was partly because I wanted to look at it with a fresh set of eyes. But it also helped immensely to have a lot of other things I had to do during that week.  I simply couldn’t look at my manuscript for lack of time.

When the time finally came to review my work, I didn’t start by cracking open the manuscript. Instead, I reviewed all of my notes, backstories, beat sheets, index cards and scene worksheets. I wanted to make sure that the story that my manuscript told matched up with my original notes.

It was imperative that I ended up crafting and drafting a story that embodied the point I wanted From Bad Girl To Worse to make. The novel had to make this point, from the first word to the last.

Be careful how you choose your friends.

I also wanted to make sure that the manuscript I’d written held true to the “Big What If”, and most importantly, the protagonist’s inner struggle between her greatest goal and her longstanding misbelief, otherwise known as her “third rail”.  I was confident that the manuscript I produced would hold true to all of these things, but it helped to review all of the information before I started making changes to it.

I began reading my manuscript through the lens of the story’s point. I focused primarily on the story the novel was actually telling. A thorough review of my initial notes made this process easier. Don’t get me wrong, it was still time-consuming and arduous, but the story made more sense to me with the information in my head. I was able to spot many story-related things in the manuscript that needed to be edited or deleted.

I made three passes through the manuscript.

Then, I used an online service called AutoCrit. This is an online manuscript editing service where you upload your manuscript file and the web-based software performs a series of checks on it. It can check everything from pacing and momentum to pronoun usage to dialogue, and even grammar. This was a handy little tool.

AutoCrit revealed to me parts of the story that didn’t belong. In some cases, entire paragraphs were flagged for deletion. The amazing part was, when I looked over the flagged paragraphs, I agreed with the AutoCrit assessment and either shortened the paragraphs or deleted them altogether.

AutoCrit, along with MS Word, helped with spelling and grammatical mechanics as well.

Using editing software to help in the self-editing process definitely had its place. But nothing takes the place of an experienced editor—a human one.  It became apparent to me that I needed to hire someone who edited manuscripts all day, every day. I felt in my gut that my story just wasn’t the best that it could be.

I knew that with the help of a professional editor, From Bad Girl To Worse could become one powerful story.

But how and where would I find an editor I could trust?

For me, it turned out that during a meeting with a published romance author, I received the answer. She told me about a company I should check out.

The Killion Group

I researched this company online. They appeared to be a one-stop shop for everything from multiple stage editing to formatting for print and e-book to publishing and cover design.

Yes, I employed The Killion Group for the entire editing process. And my whole experience working with them was nothing short of amazing. Their pricing was the most reasonable I’d found anywhere in my research. And their customer service was world class.

Throughout the editing process, I learned a ton of things by working with a professional that I wouldn't have learned if I had just self-edited my manuscript. The few hundred dollars I’d spent on editing costs were worth every penny.

There are a lot of ways you can approach the self-editing process. But the two most important things I can tell you from my experience are…

1.    Make sure your manuscript actually tells a story. Make doubly sure your reader can see inside your protagonist’s head and read her thoughts. Finally, make sure your protagonist’s thoughts are telling a story of internal transformation.
2.    Hire an editor—a professional editor. Working with a great editor will help immensely in turning your not-so-good first draft to a compelling final draft.

I would personally recommend The Killion Group, not because I’m being paid to recommend them, but my experience of working with them was absolutely wonderful.

Here’s a final note on editing your first draft: This is only your first draft. It’s going to be bad. It will only get better if you never give up, and work the process to the end.

Happy Editing,

L. R. Farren
Author of From Bad Girl To Worse 

P. S. – The Killion Group does the editing and cover design for Hallmark E-Books. They must be doing something right to get the privilege of working with Hallmark. 

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