Writer. Adventurer. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a series of steampunk novels and short stories.

Editing, Rewrites, and Beta Readers

You must get your book edited. This is not negotiable. Do lots and lots of drafts of your novel. This is not negotiable. Get beta readers to lay eyes on your manuscript. Did I mention this is not negotiable if you want to be successful?

I was lucky enough to participate in a webinar this week hosted by Grant Faulkner of NaNoWriMo. The guest speakers were the Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry. They were wonderful and spoke for over an hour, then followed with a half hour answering all of our questions. I’d like to share some of the wisdom they imparted to us. I’m going to break it up into five sections:

  • Knowing Your Audience
  • The Pitch
  • Your Social Media Platform
  • Publishing – Big Six, Independent, or Self-Publishing
  • Editing – Rewrites, Edits, and Beta Readers

Part Five – Editing

It is finished.  Complete.  The “hard work” is done.  Congratulations!

First, go celebrate a little bit.  See those friends you haven’t seen in a while.  Try that new restaurant everyone is talking about.  You have done what only a small handful of people ever accomplish.  You have written a novel.  Check it off your bucket list.

Let your novel rest for a least a week.  Not setting eyes on it for a month would be better.  You can catch up on your social media efforts that fell by the wayside as you cranked through the end of the book.

Okay, so manuscript rewrite numero uno — save your document as a new version.  If you can afford it, print out the whole book (after numbering the pages!) and put it in a binder (if you like playing with office supplies like me).  Start from the beginning with a red pen.  Go to the end.  Rinse, repeat.

When you are chopping and moving stuff around, you don’t want to lose that fabulous scene where your heroine was standing in the kitchen and revealed something shocking.  If it doesn’t make the cut for the novel, save it, clean it up, post it as an excerpt on your website.

Don’t worry about someone stealing your excerpts that you post online.  The best thing that can happen to you is for your stuff to go viral on the internet.  There will be WAY more people looking you up on Amazon and Goodreads than just trotting around with your 500- or 1000-word selections.  Make excerpts of your work short and free.

Keys 02

So what are you looking for in each draft?  Here’s some things you should consider (and also give this list to your beta readers).

Developmental Edit – Is there change, and is there growth?

  • Overarching plot line – I did a blog about my Big Five Plot Points
  • Individual story arcs
  • Character development
  • Structure and pacing
  • Themes

Questions to Ask – Share with beta readers and consider for yourself.

  • Where were you bored / interested?
  • What did you want to more / less of?
  • Did my characters work?
  • Were the motives and conflicts clear?
  • Did the beginning / ending work?
  • What would you change first and why?
  • Ask lots of open-ended questions.

Line Editing – Focus on this last, but do enough along the way to make it readable.

  • Correct typos
  • Consider word choice
  • Eliminate redundancies  (I once had a character who was “overrought” three times in about ten sentences.  That’s being terribly redundant, and it made me overwrought.)
  • Read your work out loud, then listen to it for flow.

Beta readers… some writers are lucky and have a list of people on call that runs to the mailbox and back.  Others are embarking on this writing and publishing journey like a solo flight over the Atlantic.  If you have a community, use them to find beta readers.  If you don’t have a community, get involved.

NaNoWriMo is a great place to start, but, just like the real world, you’ll broad range of writers who are more/less serious than you and may not by interested in your genre.  You should also get connected with genre fiction communities.  They can often offer the best insights because they are most familiar with your market.

Give as you would like to receive.  Get a feel for the community, read some excerpts, maybe some pitches, make some comments.  Help others and they will be willing to help you too.  Build relationships that will last after you both have published your twenty-fith novel.

Writers are readers, always remember that.

Posting Schedule for 2014-15

Monday through Friday I will be posting about writing as business and craft, the science of creativity, all things steampunk, and progress on The Dreamless City.

Weekends are reserved for my Music Playlist.

Writers of the Future Honorable Mention

About the Author

Tracy Cembor attempts to juggle a preschooler and a baby, a full-time job, random geekery, and the writing life. Currently working on The Dreamless City, a steampunk urban fantasy novel. Come join the adventure.
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