How I write Part 3 (The self edit)

Another post from July 2012.

I have a lot more to say on this subject and will write a more in depth post in coming weeks.

How I write Part 3 (The self edit)
The edit is one of the most crucial stages of writing a book and also the cruellest. Anybody who is hurt by criticism should look away now.

As with my other posts, I can only tell you how I go about editing my work. There is far better advice out there on getting professional editors however as I write for fun rather than to make money, I’m not too keen on spending a lot of money on an editor. This opinion may change if I become more successful but for now, I am a self editor.

The most important thing to remember is to be honest with myself. There’s no point in me convincing myself I’m a brilliant author only for others to decide that I am rubbish. If something doesn’t work, change it.

I was very precious about my work when I wrote Leg It! and didn’t let anybody see it until it was finished. I’m not so bad with the new one but I’m still uncomfortable with anyone seeing it until it has at least been through the first edit.

Leg It! went from 125,000 words to 83,000. This time I am aiming to write 100,000 words and get it down to about 80,000.

First stage is to read the whole thing and rearrange the chapters so they are in some sort of order. Next I look at the endings of the chapters. Do they end on a cliffhanger or with a ‘reveal’ that makes the reader want to keep turning the pages?

Pace is important. Sometimes I remove words so it speeds up a touch. Sometimes it resembles a runaway train and I have to add a bit more description to slow it down a bit.

Do the names fit the characters? Are they consistent i.e. not loads of variations on the same name (Al, Alan, Big Al, Parky, Parko etc) I tend to stick to a maximum of 2 per character. Actual name and one nickname.

Does the dialogue work or is it too clunky. Do people really speak like that?

I try and avoid the “He said, She said, He thought etc. It should be reasonably obvious who his speaking.

I also try and use dialogue to show the reader rather than tell them what is happening. A quick search for the word ‘was’ normally highlights a few necessary re-writes.

Plot holes. Does the plot work or is it unbelievable? Never assume a reader will let an inconsistency pass.

Are the characters necessary? Does every chapter lead somewhere and have a part to play in the plot? No matter how funny or well written I think they are, if they serve no purpose, get rid.

I also take note of feedback I’ve had from my other work. Have I made the same mistakes again?

Most importantly of all. Did I enjoy reading it?

Once I’ve answered all of these questions and rewritten it for the first time can I consider my first draft ready.

When I say ready, I mean ready for the next stage of the edit and possibly the most painful.

The peer review

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