So, you’ve written your novel and now you need to start revising your first draft so that you can get it as polished as possible before sending it off to your editor. If you can focus on correcting these 12 weaknesses to look out for when editing your novel you will help to save yourself money as well as really get clear on your own story.
‘The first draft is as bad as the book is ever going to be‘
~ Robin Stevens
Once you’ve finished your first draft you can actually start working on your story. Now you start finding gaps and really get to know your characters. You thought you knew everything about your story already? NO! By revising your manuscript you will get to know your story on a completely different level.
But, how do you craft this vomit on your page into the book you meant for it to be? Revisions.
Revising a full manuscript can be daunting and scary too. When I revise I take it step-by-step. I follow these ten aspects of the novel and work on each one, one-at-a-time.
Find any inconsistencies within your novel and make sure that they are all changed to create uniform throughout. Things like the spelling of names, dialogue quotation marks, and numbers are often where I find inconsistency in writing.
Read your dialogue out loud to yourself. Often dialogue is written in ways that we don’t actually speak. So, by reading it out loud to yourself you will be more able to check that your dialogue flows naturally like a conversation.
When I write (I advise my clients to do the same) and I need to add something to that part of the novel later I simply write the letters ‘TK’, which means ’to come’. These can be things that I may need to research or parts that I’m not sure what happens next. ‘TK’ gets added into any place that creates a gap in a manuscript. The reasoning for this is so that I can do a simple ‘find and replace’ to find these gaps in the novel and then fill them in accordingly.
4. Filler Scenes & darling characters
That scene, that doesn’t add anything to your novel, the one where your character’s aunt’s best friend comes to visit and that’s it. Cut it. A darling character is a character that also doesn’t add to your novel. Darling characters are characters that wouldn’t be missed if they weren’t there. Cut them.
5. Character Arcs
Do your characters have good character arcs? In fact, do your characters have any character arcs? In other words; who are they? Who do they become throughout your novel? Does your character grow or change within your novel? Readers want growth within a character and without this aspect the story can often feel flat and meaningless.
6. Easy solutions
Racing to the finish line are you? I’m so guilty of this. Take it slow and resolve your character’s issues properly. If you have chosen easy solutions to problems your characters may face. Cut these.
Consider the balloon analogy; when you blow up a balloon you add air, and add more air, and add even more air until it gets to the point where you start wondering when the balloon will pop? This creates tension and it leaves the reader wondering when it will all pop. You don’t want deflated balloons that leave your readers feeling like the sad kid at a party. Tension creates curiosity, which is the best thing for your readers. Curiosity will keep readers turning pages.
7. The bigger the risk the better
Is your character taking a risk? Are the stakes high enough? The more your character has to lose the better. Consider your character’s risks and then play them out. Make sure they have a lot to lose or a lot to gain and then create intrigue as to what will happen at the end.
When describing the same thing (a character or place) pick the best description and delete the rest. Consolidate descriptions into one and get rid of the rest. You don’t need to explain one thing multiple times throughout your book, once is enough.
9. Confusing storylines
Confusing storylines can come in many forms but mostly they come through holes in your manuscript. Often you know what belongs in that hole but you’re just too close to the writing to notice that the hole is there. Aspects such as; your character has moved from one location to another – but how? Or, your character’s hair colour changes all of a sudden. Try to take note of these things and make sure everything makes as much sense as possible.
10. Remember the breadcrumbs
Leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind for your reader, little clues as to what is happening in your book. The mystery is great but you don’t want to be so mysterious that your readers have no clue what is going on.
11. Goal, Motivation, Conflict
Make sure that every character in your novel has these three elements. Then go through your list of scenes and write down your characters goal, motivation, and conflict within that scene.
Goal – what your character wants. This should be clear from the opening scene.
Motivation – why do they want/need this?
Conflict – What gets in their way of achieving their goal.
Scenes without any of these three elements are probably filler scenes and they are not needed in your book.
Make sure your plot in on point and make sure that your story develops well. Have a look at your novel, does it have the following elements?
Inciting incident – 25%
Midpoint – halfway
Climax – last 25%
Resolution – last chapter/last pages of the book
Not all novels follow this criterion and it does vary by genre but it’s still a good guideline.
By looking out for these 12 weaknesses in your novel and then spending time focussing on them one-by-one you’ll already have a better manuscript to send off to your editor.
This guest blog was hosted by Megg Geri, who is the author of write a novel in 30 days. She also writes fiction and owns Megg & Co. editing boutique. She specialises in novel editing and coaching by day and by night she reads, a lot join her book club 🙂
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