How to Edit a Novel: The Best Tips for Faster, Better Editing

If you’ve never edited before and it seems like an intimidating process to you, don’t let it! Editing your own work can be one of the most rewarding things you do as a writer, and it’s becoming increasingly common as more writers are moving over to self publication.

Editing is easy if you take the time to research your topic and learn how to approach it in the right way.

Want to learn how to cross over from being a writer to being a great editor? Here are some of the best tips for how to edit a book.

Don’t Jump Straight In

Never move straight from the writing process to editing. Give it a bit of a break, whether you revisit your manuscript in a week or a few months. This gives the brain a chance to refresh itself – and it’s essential if you want to look at your written manuscript with fresh eyes for the editing process.

Taking a step away from the entire process to let the manuscript sit for a while lets your brain think about other things for a while, and the final editing process will seem a lot less intimidating when you start doing it.

Take it Chapter By Chapter

Edit your book chapter by chapter or section by section. This allows you to keep track of what you have changed in a much easier way, and you can spot important plot points (and obvious plot holes) as well as mistakes in every single chapter as opposed to being blind-sided by 50, 000 words or more of an entire manuscript.

With this, keep notes chapter by chapter and write down anything you spot that you would like to change or still have to get around to.

Don’t Be Scared to Cut

First-time editors are often scared to cut anything out of their manuscripts. This is also one of the first things that first-time editors are told to get over. Being afraid to remove anything from your book can hold the entire book back. Don’t let hesitation or fear stand in the way of the editing process – all that it does is drag you down.

If you have a nagging feeling that something in your book doesn’t quite fit in the way you feel it’s meant to, remove it. You can always go back and insert the same section somewhere else, or use it as a starting point for another story – but if it doesn’t belong in this particular manuscript, no amount of editing can force it.

Take Notes for Keeping Track

First-time editors should take a tip from seasoned editors and work with both notes and a style sheet from the beginning of the editing process. Notes can help you keep track of things like plot changes and storylines (as well as anywhere you might have messed up), whereas a style sheet is a great way of keeping track of editorial things like whether you used ‘ or “ to indicate quotes.

Use a Beta Reader

Writers who are also editors can sometimes have major issues when it comes to spotting errors in their own work. This can hold you back – and where large errors are missed during your own edits, it can result in these errors making it as far as publication.

As a self published writer this is a special “nope.”

If you feel like there are any errors that you yourself didn’t spot, whether referring to plot or grammar, the use of a beta-reader can be greatly useful to see things you didn’t.