Editing is a long, tiring process and something many writers struggle with. Here you have a child you’ve slaved over for weeks, months or even years and now you’re tasked with tearing it apart. It’s painful and seemingly impossible to new writers, but it must be done. When editing your novel, you must remove all attachments to it and tell yourself you didn’t write it. You’re editing it for a friend.
Read over the entire manuscript.
Take a few days to read over the entire manuscript, but don’t make any edits yet. Look for plot holes, areas which may confuse the reader and make notes.
Add, delete and move scenes around.
During your second read, fill in those plot holes. This may require you to move scenes around, add a few in and remove others. Any scene that doesn’t move the plot forward should get removed at this time. If you find this painful, make a deleted scenes file to make things a little easier. Scenes you delete can be placed in this file for safekeeping.
Do a line by line.
By now you’re probably tired of reading the same book over and over. This is by far the longest of the edits. Go through the document line by line, looking for passive voice, improper dialogue tags, excessive description as well as areas that don’t have enough. This may take you a few weeks, so try to cut the work up into daily chapters.
Read it over again.
Read over your manuscript aloud. When we read silently, we tend to skip ahead. Reading aloud will help you find areas your reader may stumble over. You can edit as you go. Be sure to have plenty of water so your throat doesn’t get too dry.
Use your beta readers.
Once you’re happy with the edits, send the manuscript off to beta readers and see what they think. A second or even third set of eyes does wonders for the editing process. These beta readers should be fellow writers who understand the structure and other elements of writing, not close family and friends.
Do one last edit.
Once you get notes back from your beta readers, look over their suggestions and apply those you agree with. This is great practice for when you’ll receive line edits from an agent or editor.
Things to remember:
Use your writer communities for inspiration. Places like Absolute Write have areas to share your work or even places where you write for an hour and share a couple of hundred words for your writing group to comment on. This is also a great resource if you find yourself getting stuck on a scene. Use your fellow writers to push your editing process forward. Don’t get stuck.