Sharing a draft of your novel with anyone for the first time can be scary. The stress of waiting to hear back from your readers or editor, of worrying about what they might say, and wondering if your writing is ready to submit can take its toll.
So why would you share your work with anyone before you’ve revised your first draft, improved it, making sure it’s as good as you can make it before anyone else reads it?
You wouldn’t. That’s why you perform a story edit and rewrite. This is where you get to self edit a novel.
A story edit is the first step in the self-editing process. I’m not talking about copyediting or proofreading. You can do that after you’ve completed your story edit. Story editing is also known as structural editing of long form fiction.
Rewrite: to write (something) again especially in a different way in order to improve it or to include new information — Merriam-Webster Dictionary
Rewriting your first draft means analyzing your story from a high-level perspective and fixing any weak areas. You want to make sure that the story structure makes sense, the scenes are tense, there are no plot holes, and you haven’t left any subplots unfinished.
While you perform a story edit, meaning self-edit a novel, take a hard look at your characters.
- How often do they appear?
- What are their goals?
- What gets in the way of their goals?
Characters will drive the tension in your story, and tension is what keeps a reader reading. Read Focus on Characters for an in-depth look at how to make the most of your characters.
Tension comes in when you’re evaluating the plot.
- What is the purpose of each scene?
- Is there an entry hook opening each scene?
- Is there an exit hook at the end of each scene?
Read Focus on Plot for an in-depth look at how to evaluate plot.
Finally, the story edit should examine your settings.
- Is the location you chose the best place for emotional impact?
- How often do you use the same setting, and is it too often?
- Do your settings help with the tone of your scenes?
Settings are key to keeping your reader engaged, so don’t ignore them. Read Improve Your Settings for an in-depth look at evaluating your settings.
Where To Start Your Story Edit
Here are three questions to ask yourself when you self-edit a novel review each scene and look for ways to improve it.
1. What is the purpose of this scene?
Defining the purpose of the scene first allows you to address other elements of the scene and test if they are in line with the purpose. A scene may have more than one purpose, but see if you can choose the most important one and then ask yourself does this help drive the story forward.
2. Who has the point of view?
Multiple points of view means the character who controls the POV for a scene changes from scene to scene. As a writer, you must be in control of this aspect. The generally accepted method is to have one POV character per scene. Switching POV mid-scene, also known as head-hopping, can jar the reader from the story.
3. Is the setting the best place for emotional impact?
When answering the question, think about who has the point of view for the scene and what makes them feel strong or vulnerable.
Do you have a character who is afraid of the dark? Imagine the character is about to have a confrontation with an employee. If the character feels confident being in his/her own office and you want the character to be in a position of strength, then use the office as a setting.
If you want the character to feel vulnerable during the confrontation, try locating him/her outside, at night, in an isolated parking lot. And make it very dark. The streetlight is broken. There is no moon. Maybe it’s windy, so a cry for help won’t be heard.
Tackle each question and rewrite each scene accordingly.
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