Gabrielle Aquilina

Five tips for editing your novel

Five tips for editing your novel

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Many writers dread the editing process and, I freely admit, I used to be one of them but you know what? After three edits of the same novel, I finally discovered that it can be quite fun.

Yes, fun!

When you’ve left a novel alone for a long time, revisiting it is like meeting up with a friend you haven’t seen for a couple of years. Things have changed in your life, you have new experiences to talk about, different stories to tell. Everything is good and glowing and exciting. You rediscover their funny little quirks and find that you really missed their self-deprecating sense of humour.

Of course, the new friend also likes to gossip about the old friend pointing out (in a totally non-bitchy way, natch) the annoying things about them too. And their flaws. But this is all okay because, once you know all the things that aren’t quite ‘right’ about your old friend, you can set about changing them. At least, you can if the old friend happens to be a book you wrote (or maybe if you’re a psychiatrist. Do they even have friends?!?)

And then you introduce a new friend to the equation and they love your old friend. They love your old friend so much, they keep bugging you for more get togethers. They tell you things about your old friend that they’ve noticed – things you hadn’t thought about.

Seeing your old friend through your new friend’s eyes really helps you appreciate all the good things about them.

A while ago, before getting my publishing contract, I gave a friend my manuscript to read (she doesn’t write which, I think, is a really good thing) and she gave me a different perspective from my writing buddies that had previously read it; things that needed clarifying or beefing up. Because she read it purely as a reader and not with a ‘writerly hat’ on, she had a different take on it, which was incredibly helpful.

To that end, my top tip is here, at number one on the list:

  1. Get somebody who has never read it before to read through it. Fresh eyes are the best! Believe me, they will pick out things that are missing, like WHOLE SCENES. Good grief, you say, how can you miss out entire scenes? Well, after a brutal editing round last time and all of the story residing in your head, it’s easy to ‘think’ bits in when you, the writer, are reading through your own story.
  2. Print it out in a different font/size/colour to whatever you typed it in. Apparently, this tricks your brain into thinking it’s something fresh you’re reading and not the book you’ve been working on for the past five years months.
  3. Jot down the main points of each chapter as you read them. Then you can check that continuity is alive and well in your novel and someone isn’t enjoying a beautiful scenic bike ride through the English countryside when, two chapters previously, they were talking about how they never learnt to ride a bike and don’t intend to.
  4. Read it out loud or, at least, read aloud your dialogue. If it sounds stunted and clumsy when you read it out, then it needs to be changed. You can get programmes that will read text for you – try a free trial and see if that works for you before splashing out on it or check out this free text to voice software.
  5. Have lots of chocolate and coffee on standby (let’s face it, this is just a top tip for life in general).

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