Editing Your Story (Step 2 of 2)

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EDITING YOUR STORY:

We've covered how to make good characters, we've covered plot-related issues, but what happens when you have all that? What happens when your story is finished?

Remember, write the first draft with your heart, and rewrite it with your head.

There are two big steps to fixing up your first draft:

1 - Rewriting
2 - Editing

These may seem relatively similar.  But they're really not. It's not wrong to refer to rewriting as a part of the editing process, but the way I see it, it's really just still writing. You're taking away and adding things to your story, whereas with editing, you're fixing what you've already finished. They're different.

If you recall, a couple chapters back I discussed revising your story. Now I'm here to talk about step two and what it entails! It's not as complex as step one, but it's definitely important. So if you haven't read that chapter, I advise you to go back and read step one first!

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Now, there a couple things to consider. When you're posting on Wattpad, you usually have to reread the chapters you wrote and edit them grammatically and such, since people will be reading them. That's what I love about not posting my stories on Wattpad until they're ready. You don't have to worry about all that technical stuff yet, and that is honestly the best way to write.

If you spend a lot of time doing line-editing (fixing grammar, spelling, sentence structure, etc.) on your first draft, and then you do re-writing second, you'll have lost a lot of time editing parts that you ended up removing or completely changing.

Also, there's that whole bit of advice about writing without looking back. This was honestly the advice that changed how I write, because I used to read back on what I'd written and edit, edit, edit. It slowed me down.

Anyway, I've got a bit off track, but it all connects. My point was to say that rewriting should come before editing, but sometimes exceptions are made when the story is posted to Wattpad or something.

Before I begin, I want to let you know that this chapter is not another grammar chapter. If you want that, go back to "Basic Rules of Grammar." This is just a basic outline to follow when you are editing your finished story, so you know what to look for!

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TO BEGIN EDITING:

It's official, you've finished your draft and revised the heck out of it. You've fixed the plot holes, you've covered the big picture stuff.

THEN:

The next step is a little more focused on specific content. We're still not to the grammar and spelling, but getting closer. Now you may focus on things such as:

a) Dialogue - Say it out loud. Does it sound natural? Is it consistent with that character's personality? Does all of the dialogue propel the plot in some way? Is there dialogue you can cut?

b) Descriptions - Are they bland? Can you find some way to make them more creative, or to focus on more unique aspects of the characters and surroundings? Do you have too many descriptions, so that your reader feels overwhelmed, or not enough? Are you describing things that are necessary to describe?

c) Characterization - In the revising chapter, we focused on determining if you'd developed a good back story and motivation, now we zoom in and see if you were consistent with it throughout the story. Carefully observe all that each character does, and make sure their dialogue and actions are true to their personality.

d) Consistency - Watch out for small slip-ups and contradictions. Make sure there aren't issues where, let's say, the prize is a bird but then in a future chapter it's said that the prize is a turtle. Consistency is important.

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THEN COMES:

LINE EDITING: You usually only get to this once you feel confident about what we went over just now and in the other chapter. You may be on your fourth or fifth draft before you actually get around to line editing and that's okay. Take as many drafts as you need to sort out your plot holes and characters.

a) Check for spelling and grammar mistakes.

b) Check your paragraph and chapter breaks to make sure they’re in the right place.

c) Look out for repeated phrases or words that you’ve been using too often.

d) Swap out words or sentences that don’t fit. This may mean ditching that pretty metaphor or fancy wording. If it doesn't fit, get rid of it.

e) Change the order of sentences that don’t sound right. Variety is key. Scrap the run-on sentences.

f) Typos, typos, typos.

g) Watch your tense changes and POV shifts. Be consistent.

h) Make the final cut of any unnecessary writing. We all tend to overwrite, and any unneeded description or rambling can be cut now.

e) Dialogue check: Earlier we made sure dialogue sounded natural and according to character, now you can focus on the technicalities. Can the reader tell who said what? Do you have repetitive "he said" and "she said"s? Or do you have too many fancy dialogue tags and need to calm it down?

Look for:
(From a blog) In no particular order: Awkward and unclear language. Punctuation abuse. A lack of variety in sentences. A lack of variety in the structure of the page. Inconsistency (John has a porkpie hat on page 70, but a ferret coiled around his head on page 75). Passive language. Wishy-washy writing. Purple prose. An excess of adverbs. Bad or broken formatting. Wobbly tense and/or POV. Redundant language. Run-on sentences. Sentence fragments. Junk language.

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Editing is difficult and you might need to go through your novel a few times before you catch your mistakes. It’s a painstaking process that requires time and attention. It might not be as fun as writing or rewriting, but it’s still a part of the process. Once you get the hang of it and find a flow that works for you, it will become much easier.

In the comments, I'm going to put the links to several articles that go into better detail! Be sure to check them out if you are in the process of editing your novel.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to ask questions, and I'd love some suggestions on future chapter ideas.

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