The Desertera Series, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates

How I Am Editing My First Novel

This week marks the beginning of the editing process for the first draft of my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter. I have already explained my inspiration behind the novel, as well as how I plotted and wrote the first draft. In this post, I am going to share my strategy for approaching the editing. I will let you know how successful I find it in a future post.

Actual edits on my manuscript

Step One: Print the manuscript

I do my best planning by writing by hand in a physical journal. Likewise, I do my best editing with physical paper and a red pen. I know plenty of writers who are just fine editing in the same word processing document in which they wrote their manuscript. However, at least for this first novel, I want to edit in the form I am most familiar. For me, it is easier to edit when I can see all the pages in front of me and write on them freely.

Step Two: Do it one chapter at a time

To keep myself from becoming overwhelmed, I will be printing my manuscript one chapter at a time. Likewise, I will be editing it one chapter at a time. In each individual chapter, I will look for several elements: sentence structure, dialogue, plot advancement, character development, etc. Basically, without going into the nitty-gritty, I will make sure each chapter is well-constructed, important to the overall story, and entertaining to the reader.

Step Three: Look at sections together

To me, my novel has clear “phases” in the overall journey. Therefore, at the end of each phase, I will make sure that the information is consistent, the plot is advancing at the proper pace, and the characters are growing as they should. I am hoping that this thoroughness will help me ensure that the development of my story is solid and allow me to avoid the cost of a developmental editor.

Step Four: Review the entire manuscript

Once all the chapters have been printed and edited, I will lay out my manuscript and consider it as a whole. Does the story flow properly? Are all necessary questions answered? Are my details consistent?

desert plantStep Five: Research specific details

Because I wrote my novel during NaNoWriMo, I allowed myself to skip on research. For example, my novel takes place in a desert landscape. My characters mention specific foods that they eat; however, I honestly don’t know if it would be possible to grow these foods in a desert (or even in a greenhouse in the desert). Therefore, I will be taking the time to research and adjust details like these as necessary.

Step Six: Type up the changes

Once I have run my red pen out of ink and researched my “minor” details, I will make the changes in the Scrivener documents. By waiting to type out my changes until the end, I hope to keep myself from having to go back into the early chapters and revise a second or third time. Likewise, this allows me another full look through my manuscript and provides a good opportunity to do more thorough proofreading.

Step Seven: Seek outside help

If I stick with the above-mentioned process, I think I will have done about all I can do for the first go-round. At this point, I will hire a professional editor and send my manuscript out to a handful of beta readers. Hopefully, these individuals will catch what I have missed and help me whip my manuscript into a final, publishable shape.

The idea of editing my manuscript makes me really nervous. I am terrified that when I look at the words I’ve written, I will realize that my NaNoWriMo writing frenzy resulted in a ginormous pile of trash. However, I keep trying to reassure myself. In university, I always felt this way when I went to edit a first draft, and the process was never as arduous as I expected. Plus, as I’ve written before, IT’S OKAY if my first draft sucks. Heck, I hope my first draft sucks, or I am planning to waste the next few weeks of my life by editing it.

Regardless, the time has come. I have taken a month off from The Cogsmith’s Daughter, and now I must edit it. Hopefully it goes smoothly and I have enough time leftover to work on my second novel. Either way, wish me luck!

What are the steps in your editing process? Do you have any tips to make this journey go smoothly for me? I’d love any help you have to offer!

Unrelated, I hit the 250 total followers mark yesterday! Thank you all so much for your continued support and engagement! It means so much to me!