Here’s a few ideas on how to help you edit!
1. Create a reverse outline
This will help you create a summary of your story and to examine each piece to see if it helps with the overall theme. This is good for those people who don’t create an outline to start and instead just write, and write, and write…
2. Read it out loud
If you’re socially awkward, that’s okay. Do this in your own home! The point of this is because we learn language first through speaking, there is this ingrained correction feature when we say it out loud. (This works best if you’re a native English-speaker.)
3. Have a friend read it
Remember that comment I made how if we write it and then it’s hard to see its flaws? Kind of like how you have a child and you love them but it can be hard to admit they’re not perfect – yes, a lot of parents will disagree with me here. Well, by having a friend read it, they can give you all sorts of feedback on features you might able to see! Always helpful.
Note: Parents are helpful but can also be too close to you!
4. Step away from the story
Drop it. If you really want to, chuck it in a dark corner and come back to it later. The point is, give yourself time before editing.
5. Create biographies for your characters
Similar to #1, using your book, construct a biography filled with all the details and history you gave about “Billy Bob.” If something doesn’t match, or you’re missing information that’s still in your head, then you know what to correct!
This is actually from Chuck Wendig, but I really like his suggestion. And, it’s a good way to vocalize what I do when I edit. Ask yourself ‘what if…’ for every situation. What if the reverse situation were true? What if something else happened instead? This will help make sure you pick the strongest (or most evil) trajectory for your character as possible.
I’m doing this with one of my stories now. It doesn’t mean you necessarily change anything, but just rewriting it without looking at your work sometimes brings a new perspective and life, especially if it’s been sitting there for a while and parts just feel dead.
I like the point Jenny Hansen makes. I find it difficult to read and edit on screen, and it really makes a difference to print it out and mark it up with a pen. You can color code for different kinds of tracking or edits. And, changing the look can help as well, such as changing font, size, spacing, etc.
9. Change your environment
Again, another good point by Jenny Hansen. By changing your surroundings, you can help yourself focus, or give you an environment more conducive to ideas rather than sleep.
By Bryan Hutchinson, he said it’s good to write a summary in different ways. To quote him, “By telling a summarized version of your story ten different ways, you get new ideas about your book’s core essentials, who the main important characters are, which ideas are most central, and how to structure your book in the most interesting way possible.” Although it may feel repetitious at times, how much will you learn by re-examinations?
11. Hire a developmental editor
If you’ve really hit a wall, you can hire someone to help you look at your book. But, as I’ve mentioned before, these editors require money since they’re open for hire. And, this payment can vary in prices.
12. Draw a timeline
I’m going to take this idea and build on it a little bit. Bubblecow suggested we should write a narrative arc to see the clear framework of the story, but to expand upon this, I’m going to suggest that everyone write a timeline. If you want, create a timeline for every plot – but keep the same time frame for each of them. This help you examine what pieces add to the story, and what you may still be missing.
Suggested by Sullivan, I really like this for the fact it creates focus while you edit. There’s so much stress regarding editing because we’ve been taught that you should check everything at once. But, by breaking this into passes, similar to how all English teachers taught us CUPS, you will become less stressed and more focused.
If you have any more suggestions, please throw them by!