Apr 6, 2011

E is for Editing Tools

You've finished your first draft - woo-hoo! You're excited, you want this book on shelves and read on Kindles NOW. Maybe you think it was a pretty good first draft and you could send it out to agents and publishers, after all, they have editors that will fix it up... right? Um, no. You want to give your story the best chance to be loved.

If you're anything like me, the first time you'll feel uncertain of where to begin with the editing process. There are lots of methods of editing to make sure you tighten your manuscript, here are the resources that I found most valuable:

1. Editing Courses
After I took on the How To Think Sideways course to help me write my first novel, I decided to try Holly Lisle's How To Revise Your Novel online course. This was fantastic. I can not rave enough. Holly's course provided instructions and charts in step by step modules to take you through the most thorough and productive editing process. You will chart up characters, backstory, plot lines, themes and more. You'll understand the importance of each element as it is explained clearly to you. If you think you'd like to learn more about producing a finished manuscript, you can check the course out by clicking below:

2. Books
The books I found the most helpful during the editing phase were:

Manuscript Makeover by Elizabeth Lyon. 
This book is also featured in my list: 13 Best Resources for Writers. It will help you take a rough draft and turn it into a well-written manuscript. I think it's a must have. I read through it for editing, but it also has a lot of helpful chapters about the creative writing phase. One key thing I picked up from this book was about Power Positions, I'd never thought before about the importance of the first paragraph, sentence and even word for each chapter. 

Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell.
There is so much information about identifying your priorities in your manuscript and editing the elements of your story, that I suggest reading through it with a notepad and pen and writing down the dot point. Bell even helped me work out how to liven up slow passages (bringing in a man with a gun). You can read more about this book in a previous post: Read, Write, Drive.

3. Time
There's no way around it. You need to put your manuscript down and give it some time before trying to edit it. Everything in there will still seem like a good idea right now, because you just wrote it. What can you do while it ferments? Plot out your next novel, try some creative writing exercises and READ. Read a lot of novels in the genre of your manuscript, with similar characters, or, aimed at the same age-market. You will pick up a lot of tips on structure, pace and characterisation just from reading these books. Keep a note pad and record the pages that show examples of well-written text that you could use to help your story. During my waiting phase for Dog Show Detective (as well as writing my next WIP), I read books from the Trixie Beldon series, books with dog characters and general cosy mysteries like Agatha Christie's. This is research (and it's fun).

Do you have a favourite editing resource you want to share with everyone?


  1. I'm not at this point yet, but someday! I hope! I appreciate the recommendations!

  2. I am bookmarking this post, Charmaine. Thanks for the awesome info!! :-)


  4. Thank you for the brilliant advice and recommendations - I know where to come for editing advice!

    Ellie Garratt

  5. Good advice! It's surprising how many people forget to edit properly, especially in this electronic publishing age.

    Also, I love the "Write Great Fiction" series of books!

  6. The longest but most fulfilling stage I think. Thanks for the book/course list.

  7. Hi Charmaine. This is wonderful. Do you recommend the online course over the books? I'm more a reader so I just wondered. Excellent info. I need it right now!

    I'm travelling to Darfur today. Hope you can travel along.


    L'Aussies Travel Blog A - Z Challenge Posts

  8. These are some great resources. I think a critique group is a great way to help with the editing. Also i like to read it backwards to catch more of the mistakes.

  9. Charmaine! I'm also a fan of Holly! I took her How to Think Sideways course and it was fabulous! I would love to complete her revision course, but haven't had time or money yet. Did you absolutely adore it? (:

  10. There is so much amazing advice in this post! I ALWAYS put some distance between the WIP and me before I do any major editing. And I love what you said about the first paragraph - I spend days grueling over those few sentences!

    New follower from A-Z - nice to meet you!

  11. You never let me down Charmaine! You always have great lists! :)
    Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

  12. Thanks for all the comments and the sugestions :)

    I do recommend the course as the first choice, it's self paced, but there were some great systems that mean future edits could be done with ONE read through. I realise sometimes we can't afford that level of expense, so Lyon's book would be my second choice. But if you can do Lisle's course, definately do. Just google and you will see many bloggers raving about how great it is. :)

  13. Thanks for the suggestions! I have several writing books - all littered with post it notes. I am looking forward to increasing my library with these when I get to the editing process!!

  14. Trying to get around to everyone's blogs, but tonight I'm in a hotel with dodgy Internet - might have to wait until tomorrow - sorry :-(

  15. Really useful tips.
    Thanks Charmaine

  16. Thanks Charmaine - I'm just finished one revision and starting another...I like James Scott Bell and my other favourite is also a Bell but not related - it is Susan Bell's The Artful Edit. Fantastic book! I give lots of time to the process as I'm a pantser sort of writer - I never outline so revision is where it really all happens. I like revision, luckily!
    Come on by Nova Scotia for a visit!
    Jan Morrison - click here and you'll be there, having a cuppa tea and looking at the Atlantic Ocean.

  17. This was so helpful! Thank you Charmaine! @>----