Writing is rewriting. My high school creative writing teacher told us this every day in class and I’m sure all of our favorite professional writers would tell us the same. The feeling of finishing a novel is the greatest feeling in the world, but if you plan to get the story published, there are several more steps you must take.
Treat your rewriting phase like a pyramid: start with the entire piece of writing, then move to each chapter, each character, story details, and finally the sentence-level errors.
When you start editing, look at your story as a whole. Think about the order in which you have told it. Does it make sense in the order in which it resides? Did you begin and end your story in the places that make the most sense? Also, look at the narrative you have chosen. Decide if the narrator is the best person to tell the story or if another character would be better.
For your characters, go back to the character map you may have created in the prewriting stage. Remember those personality traits and pieces of history that made the character what you intended them to be. Make sure the decisions each character makes matches these qualities, or you may have to go back and change the character map! Also look at dialogue. The things characters should say should give the reader something about them that is important about that specific person.
The story details, aka the scenes you choose to divulge to the reader, should be similar to the way you treat characters. Does each scene further the plot in some way or give information about characters? Do any scenes lack information or are too long and drawn out?
Lastly, read through your story and look for small errors in language, grammar, and punctuation. If you haven’t written it on the computer, it is probably best to let the spell check help you out a little. You can also print out more than one copy if you have to. Once you have copies to edit, focus on getting rid of language that is flat or repetitive, and then focus on the grammar and punctuation.
You may not catch everything on the first try; as a matter a fact, it’d be amazing if you did! It can help to use a different color every time you edit—it’ll help you keep track of the edits you’ve already done.
Remember, it will take several rounds of editing to make your novel ready to be published. It will never be perfect, but every time you edit, you will be that much closer to that unattainable perfection. Once you give your story to a third party, a friend or a family member, you’ll have suggestions you never thought of before. Grab a red pen and get cracking…just remember to finish the book first!