The editing process is vital to creating a good story, regardless of which genre you write in. It is a time to refine your story, and to make it the best it can be. Editing is not an easy process. Oftentimes, you can find yourself not knowing where to start, or unwilling to let someone else see your work. While I can’t stress enough the importance of having someone else edit your story, you may want to edit it yourself first. So, if this applies to you, here is a list of tips that you can use when editing your own story. Many of these can also apply if you are editing someone else’s story, too.
Take Your Time and Read Like a Reader
There’s no need to rush through the editing process. In fact, there are more reasons to edit slowly and thoroughly, so that you don’t skip over the same issues during the next edit. If there are glaring issues with your story, take the time to fix them, so that in the future you can work on the more important things. Your future self will thank you.
You should also let yourself enjoy the story. Read the story from a reader’s perspective, so that you can experience it the way your readers will. This will give you a different lens through which to view your story and allow you to detach from its creation a bit to view it critically.
Cut Out the Unnecessary
Everything in your story should have a reason for being there. I know I fell into this trap a lot when I first started writing. I would create a massive cast of characters, and then I wouldn’t know what to do with all of them. The less important ones would take attention away from the main characters, and it was difficult to fit them all into the story smoothly.
Every character should have a purpose in your story. That purpose can be big or small, but there has to be something. If there are characters without a purpose, cut them out of the story. The less superfluous characters in a story, the better the audience can focus on and grow attached to the important ones. Keep in mind, stories can have extremely large casts, like Game of Thrones. But I challenge you to find a single character in Game of Thrones that does not play at least a small part in advancing the plot.
This rule counts for events, too. If an event doesn’t advance the plot or subplot in some way, or doesn’t at least give the reader more insight into a certain character, then it should be cut out. Most readers don’t want to read fluff, as much fun as it sometimes is to write.
Watch for Plot Holes
This is one of the most important things to focus on, because it can potentially change a lot about your novel. On a first draft, they can be put aside for the sake of getting the writing done. But on the first edit, and no later, they should be addressed. Because plot holes can be large enough to warrant changes to other parts of your novel, they should not be left alone. The sooner they’re fixed, the sooner you can focus on the other parts of the editing process.
Pay Attention to Pacing
I know at least personally, during the writing process, pacing is far from the first thing I’m focused on. Pacing can really only be addressed after the first draft is written. It is something that we should pay attention to, though, because it can make or break a story. If your entire story is slow and calm, then the reader will not stay interested, no matter how lovable your characters are. Likewise, if your story is nothing but tense, action-packed event after event, these moments lose their weight and the reader can also become bored. You need to find a balance. The action should come in waves, gradually becoming bigger as the story reaches its climax.
Examine Each Character’s Arc
This one seems like common sense, but I think many writers tend to overlook the arcs of smaller characters in favor of the main ones. Stories are far more interesting, and more immersive, if every character has some sort of internal or external struggle happening. It doesn’t have to be the main focus of the story, or even a focus at all. But think about real life – every single person you know has their own life, their own goals, and their own struggles. The characters in your story should be no different. You don’t need to explicitly write out every character’s arc, but keep it in mind when writing them, because it will help bring them and your world to life.
Hook (and Keep) the Reader
If the beginning of your story doesn’t have some sort of hook to get the reader interested, rewrite it. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who reads the first few pages of a book before even considering to buy it. You could have the most amazing book in the world, but if your readers don’t want to get past the first few pages, no one will ever know.
Hooking the reader is not only something that is done in the beginning of a book. It should be done throughout the book, to keep the reader’s attention. I cannot count the number of books that I have forgotten about, several chapters in, because I grew bored after a stellar opening. There should always be something happening in the novel. Something that matters. Otherwise, the story can lose direction. An easy way to fix this is to make sure the character has a goal and an obstacle in every scene. As long as the character has something that they are working towards, there is enough to keep the reader invested.
Find a Balance
One of the most influential pieces of advice about writing I have come across has been from Stephen King’s On Writing. He said, “Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.” You don’t need to vividly describe every single detail of every character, of every setting, or of every event. Describe what is necessary to convey your vision, and let the reader fill in the rest. Part of what makes reading so enjoyable is the ability to interact with the text. A reader can’t do that if you don’t let them. Give them something and let their imagination run with it. Allow the reader to get what they want out of your story, so that it can make more of an impact on them.
Get Another Pair of Eyes
Creative writing is personal, and many writers are reluctant to show it to others, especially while it’s still in its early stages. However, this is all the more reason to have someone else look at it. Finding someone else who is willing to critique your writing is vital to the writing process, because they will always see mistakes that you won’t. Or they’ll see plot holes that you miss, or express confusion at the point of certain characters or events. Let someone else see your story. They might provide some valuable insight that you’d be unable to get from yourself.
Contributed by: Maddie