The Ultimate Editing Checklist

By on February 3, 2017
The Ultimate Editing Checklist - Writer's

Some writers love the editing stage of their novel. They get themselves all pumped up and ready to turn a poor first draft into something pretty impressive. Others find the editing stage tedious and painful.

Even if you intend to hire a professional editor, you need to go back through your story and self edit as much as possible first. So, regardless of how you feel about editing, it is a necessary part of writing your book, and love it or hate it, every writer must do it.

So, how can you make sure you do the best, most thorough job possible? Follow this editing checklist, and you’ll give yourself the best chance of pulling out any errors or inconsistencies, correct spelling and grammar mistakes and shape your story, so it’s a pretty darn good read (even if you do say so yourself).

Check the beginning of each chapter

How long does it take before the action starts? It is very easy for writers to spend a page or two setting the scene before anything happens - this is not necessary, so make sure you cut this down when you notice it in your novel.

Don’t over complicate things

Showing off your extensive vocabulary you are is not necessarily useful in a work of fiction. Don’t use complicated language. Explain things simply and use your words carefully. Don’t be obtuse, and always keep your reader in mind.

Remove pointless words

It’s so easy to subconsciously boost our word count by stuffing unnecessary words in all over our work. Look out for these and remove them - see how much better your novel reads when you’re done. Common traps are where writers explain things when they don’t need to ‘She listened to the sound of the wind’ - why include ‘the sound of,’ if someone is listening, they are going to be listening to sounds.

Don’t overwrite

Writing too elaborately or using flowery language can make your reader cringe. If you are skilled at writing beautiful and unusual descriptions then you should include these, but use them sparingly so your reader really notices them, don’t stuff your book full of them it will only hurt your story.

Be clear and decisive

Avoid phrases such as ‘seemed’ ‘a bit’ or ‘slightly’ - you know how your character is feeling, don’t hedge your verbs, make a decision and be clear.

Avoid excessive stage direction

Your reader doesn’t need to know every single action or movement a character makes. If you focus on this too much, your story will become challenging and tiresome to read.

Use your words

Whenever you can use your words to tell the reader what they need to know.

‘I hate you’ Ben said, spitefully.

Here the 'spitefully' just isn’t necessary. Your reader should know he is being spiteful by what has happened before. Don’t capitalise words to make it sound like someone is shouting, or use exclamation marks to emphasise them. Choose words which do that for you.

Be eagle-eyed when it comes to inconsistencies

If your story jumps around a lot in time or has lots of different stages which need to seamlessly connect then make sure it all makes sense in the end. Write out a timeline of important events which will help you stay on track.

End each chapter on a cliffhanger

At the end of the day, the most important point is to make your reader want to keep on reading. Look at each chapter separately and make sure it contains drama, excitement, moves the story forward and ends in a way that the reader will find it tough to put down.

Editing your novel is so important, and, regardless of whether you send your book to a professional editor or not, by using this checklist you will get it into the best shape possible and give yourself the best chance of success.

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

Bethany Cadman -author of 'Doctor Vanilla's Sunflowers'

About Ty Cohen

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *