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5 ways to edit your new novel until it's finished

26 November 2017

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5 ways to edit your new novel until it's finished

We often talk about the best way to get started writing a novel, but a much harder task for many writers is working out when it’s finished.

It sounds like a daft question. Surely, once you’ve written that last page, proofread and sent to your editor for final tweaking, it’s done, right?

Not quite. We think there are five things every author needs to do before signing off their masterpiece as ‘finished’, and we’d like to share them with you today:

1. Read it as though you’ve bought it

A classic mistake made by inexperienced authors is to read their ‘finished’ work haphazardly.

This isn’t entirely unreasonable, either. If you’ve toiled over 60,000 words for months on end, the thought of reading the entire novel from cover to cover might be a little unpalatable.

However, it’s the most important thing you’ll do during the creative process, because if you read it as though you’re someone who has laid down their hard earned money, you’ll gain a whole new perspective on what it is you’ve created.

Just be ready to be disappointed at times - and act on that disappointment.

2. Try the 10 scenario technique

If you’re a fiction writer, this is a particularly useful technique once you’ve finished your first draft.

If you’re asked to draw ten unique stick men, chances are you’ll loose inspiration after the third. But that’s when you’ll need to get inventive and reach into your creative locker to continue.

The ten scenario technique for writers operates in much the same way. It works on the premise that the writer develops ten different scenarios that detail the book - everything from it’s central theme and character arcs to the denouement.

These scenarios don’t have to be long (a few hundred words will do it), but they do have to be unique, and in creating them, you should start to get a feel for where you may have missed opportunities to make the book the best it can be.

When you find elements within a particular scenario that appear to be missing from the novel - go back and add them in.

3. Write three drafts

There are some great single-draft writers out there, but they’re few and far between. For most of us, three is definitely the magic number.

The first draft is the book in its most embryonic form. The second fixes the major holes you find during the first full read through, while the third adds the polish and missing elements you discovered in your scenarios (see tip 2).

4. Send it to friends and family

Sending your completed manuscript onto friends and family is quite often the most nerve-wracking part of the writing process (more so, arguably, than sending it out to be published).

The thought of showing your hard work to the people closest to you might fill you with dread, but if you can do so with an open mind and acceptance that you might receive some crushingly honest advice from the more outspoken people in your life, it’ll make the world of difference to your finished novel.

Friends and family are brilliant proof readers. Use them.

5. Listen to yourself; you know it’s finished

This is the simplest of the lot, but also the easiest indicator to overlook.

Chances are, you’ll know when you’ve finished your novel to the point of it being ready to publish. And there won’t be anything you can solidly put your finger on to prove it - you’ll just feel that it’s done.

Your instinct as a self published author is vitally important. Follow it.

Wrapping up

Hiring an editor is still an important part of the final writing process, but our tips above will help you immeasurably in your quest to create your best work.

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