Welcome to November, hopefully everyone who had been participating on NaNoWriMo was successful. My post today is for everyone who has a draft of a manuscript and has the question: Now what?
When I began writing novels as a teenager I got so excited about finishing a manuscript that I'd immediately give it to my sisters to read. They were interested in reading it, if nothing else just to see what I had created. Looking back, my mistake was a big one: I didn't self-edit. Now, I HATE, ABHOR, and LOATHE editing. It can be tedious and is a lot of hard work. You as the writer go from finishing a book, thinking it is awesome then have to turn a critical eye to it. It's not fun. But you have to do it. I was lucky my sisters were supportive and kept reading through the sentence fragments and undeveloped plot (commonplace in a first draft) and gave me constructive criticism to develop and edit my book.
Give your unpolished manuscript to someone with less constructiveness and you'll get the advice I got from one unnamed family member of "don't quit your day job." Next week I'll discuss the importance of having second or beta readers, but this week I want to focus on how to edit what you've just written.
Here are my 5 tips for how to edit your book:
1. Print out the book on paper. You'll find a lot more mistakes on paper than on a computer screen. Also, it is the first time you'll be able to hold up your book and show it off and get to talk about it.
"What are you doing?" someone asks while you edit your book.
"Just editing my book," you respond nonchalantly, with a tilt of your head.
"What? You wrote that? What's it about?" the person asks.
"It's a epic adventure story set in the wild west."
2. Use a colored pen and write on the manuscript. Use post it notes if there isn't enough margin space. Don't keep the pages clean from marks. Marks are good, they mean you're improving your book.
3. Write legibly. I had a professor who loved to bleed over everyone's papers. She had sloppy handwriting and used a felt tip pen. The only way her writing could have been sloppier is if she used her foot to write. Inputting the edits became so much harder. And with editing the easier you make it on your self the more likely you'll actually get through it.
4. Take some time between finishing writing and editing. Read a book. Then another. And maybe one more (depending on your time schedule and how fast you can read). Pick some books with a similar genre or theme to yours. Don't copy from the books, but see if there is anything those writers did that you liked or didn't like.
5. When your editing, ask yourself questions.
Why is the character acting that way?
Why does the setting look like that?
How does the character feel at any given point?
What is the purpose of the chapter?