How to Edit a Book


Writing a book is only half the struggle, maybe less, but they won't tell you that when you start out. This isn't out of some malicious intent, it's because we don't want you to give up! It's because we know you can do it if you set your mind to it. It's because we believe in you. Anyway, so you've written this draft and for about five minutes you think you're great. Maybe you head over to twitter and shout out your success using plenty of hashtags and exclamation marks. There's nothing wrong with this but what you will soon discover is that's not it. You're not done. This isn't that ever green field of grass you've been chasing on the horizon. This is just a moment in your journey. What comes next, people will tell you, is editing.

How horrific, you'll think, but, I suppose it won't take me long.

It will because it always does. It will because you care, and caring means you'll put in the most effort you've ever put into something before you're done.

You'll take yourself to the edge and back again before you're done with this book but that's just the way of you. People don't set out to write books half heartedly.

There's no set map to editing something. People can only tell you what they've done and then leave you to figure out what works best for you. For me, I leave the book for a while and then reread it. Then I start rewriting parts.

You might get like me for a while. Stuck in the valley of rewriting, doing loops and switching paths, because you started this book as a pantser but somewhere along the way you learned how to plot and now it's obvious that a lot of things need redoing.

That's okay.

Once it's rewritten, I start layering in all the stuff I love in books but first drafts sometimes miss out. I link up things and create subplots. I give people backstories that I spend an age creating only to mention it once in a sentence. I see and feel the world I'm writing and I think about themes.

I go through the whole thing three or maybe four times but honestly, probably more than that.

Nobody can really tell you when you're done editing but critique partners can help. They can read through and point out plot holes and fall in love with your characters as they read on a window sill listening to the rain fall. Get a few and form the strongest bonds with them you'll ever know.  Not sure where to find them? Maggie Stiefvater set up a critique partner matchup google group a while back and it's well worth a look.

How do you edit?