You’ve written a novel, maybe you threw it together in 30 days for NaNoWriMo or maybe you’ve toiled over every word for ten years. Now that novel glares at you accusingly and you realize the first draft wasn’t as flawless and beautiful as you once thought.
You need to edit the book. You. Not the editor.
Content and line editors are necessary for a polished, professional book, but they come in after you have done all you can do. Editors are kind of like shapewear for novels, the better the form underneath, the better the end result will be.
Before you rush off to hire an editor this is what you need to do to make sure your editor is working with your very best work.
1. Finish your book from Page 1 to THE END. An editor needs a full novel to edit.
2. Read through your story. Let the book rest for a week or two, and then read it all the way through. Decide what works, and write down what the point of each chapter is. If the chapter is not advancing the plot, and doesn’t have enough tension, you need to either change the chapter or scrap it.
3. Check tenses and POV. Do not head hop from character to character. Do not change tenses mid-chapter. Rewrite any scenes that are off.
4. Check for weak or over-used phrases.
Words to unpack:
Thinks, Knows,Understands, Realizes, Believes, Wants, Remembers, Imagines, Desires, Loves, Hates, Is, Has
Weak words to consider changing (acceptable occasionally and in dialog): about,actually, almost, like, appears, approximately, basically,close to, even, eventually, exactly, finally, just, just then, kind of, nearly, practically, really, seems, simply, somehow, somewhat, sort of, suddenly,that,truly, utterly,were.
5. Run spellcheck and look for marked grammar errors.
6. Read through again checking for character consistency.
Now that your manuscript is the best you can make it, it’s time for an editor. You can use beta readers, a writing group, your in-house editor with your publisher, or a freelance editor (like me!) to help you find anything you’ve missed.