How to Edit a Novel Using an Outline



hey guys it's Ellen brought novel editor today I'm going to continue our discussion about revisions yesterday I talked about the two tools that I like use for revisions and today I'm going to talk about scenes and how you can know which scenes you should cut change or add to your novel so like I mentioned in my previous video I like you as an outline for this process but if you want to just use your novel itself and you want to work straight into your novel and you don't want to use an outline that's totally fine all of these tips will still work so I'm just gonna run through some tips and some things that you might want to look out for in your scenes so that you have a jumping-off point for the editing process it can make things a lot easier and a lot smoother so tip number one is to look for scenes that are irrelevant these are scenes that don't have an impact on the plot the character doesn't learn any new information the conflict is sort of irrelevant or doesn't show anything about the characters or the world it just doesn't really have any purpose in the story you could pluck it out and nobody would have even known that it was there or maybe you couldn't fully pluck it out but you could just write one or two sentences at the end of the previous or the beginning of the next scene and that's all it would take to just completely eliminate the scene this can be a great starting point some writers tend to have a lot of scenes that become irrelevant or they aren't sure where they want to go with the story so there can be sections of just sort of spinning your wheels and not really going anywhere and the characters aren't really doing anything and you can get a lot better perspective on your story if you just go ahead and cut those things out at the beginning of the editing process so you don't have to look at them and consider them I know it can be painful to make cuts but sometimes it's easier to just say goodbye to those scenes and see what you have left number two is to look for scenes that don't have any conflict if there's no internal or external conflict there's a good chance that the scene is kind of boring or is it really pulling its weight there are some situations where you might not have a conflict in the scene but in general those would be early on in the novel and not very frequent because you generally want to have that sense of progression that the story is moving forward if you have a lot of scenes that don't have conflicts it can really slow the story down and it can cause a really saggy middle in your novel now you might have information in that scene that you need to move to another scene if you cut it or you might find it easier to add a conflict to the scene so that you can pump it up and make it relevant and so that you can keep it if it's important to the plot keep in mind that conflict is not just something bad happening conflict is when the character wants something there's an obstacle in the way of what they want and they have to fight against it if the character doesn't want something and something bad happens that doesn't impact the goal that's not a conflict in the structural sense so make sure that what it happens the bad things in the scenes are actual true conflicts getting in the way of the characters goal and not just incidental negative things that happened the conflict doesn't have to be external it could be internal for example it doesn't have to be that the character wants an item and then someone won't give it to them it could be something like the character doesn't want to embarrass himself and he ends up embarrassing himself that can also work as a conflict so it can be emotionally motivated but if there's no conflict there's no emotional conflict there's no external conflict the scene has a high chance of dragging or seeming boring so I would recommend either adding a conflict or cutting the scene especially if the scene takes place after the first quarter of the novel so tip number three is to look for scenes that are redundant scenes that are serving the same purpose for example if you have a character who hates school and you have a scene where you show them at school and they're having a bad day and it goes terribly and then you have another scene that shows them at school having a bad day that goes terribly unless those scenes are progressing the plot there's new conflicts the character is moving towards a goal or being pushed further away from their goal there's no need for the other scene and when you have a lot of scenes that are demonstrating the same thing it can get boring the reader can lose interest so I recommend looking for those redundant scenes and cutting them out tip number four is to look for scenes that need to be added some times when writing the first draft we accidentally or deliberately skip sections because we want to come back to it later or because we forget to introduce a piece of information and so it can be helpful to indicate what scenes you need to add so that you can make a plan to write those scenes if you're using an outline which I recommend you can indicate where you want to add it in the outline if you don't know exactly where you want to add the information you can indicate a range in your revision plan or in your notes for editing maybe you say need to explain about this spell and I need to do it between scene 27 and 29 that can just help you to get some sort of planting to remind yourself of what you want to accomplish tip number five is to look for scenes that have breadcrumbs of abandoned ideas sometimes we change our mind about what we want to write and we might start setting up something that never becomes relevant this could be clues that are never followed up on or characters that ultimately don't have any point or any purpose in the story it could even be conflicts or objectives that the main character just abandons and never follows up with or you decided that you don't want to include mark those scenes or cut those scenes so that you know hey there's something here that I don't want anymore and I need to take this out of the novel a lot of the time when I work with clients I can see those breadcrumbs of previous ideas that they're they're left in and they're not taken out and it can just make the writing a little bit sloppy or it can sometimes give the reader the wrong impression unless you're doing it purposefully as a red herring it can sometimes give the reader the wrong impression about what the story is going to be about or what's going to happen and in general the space in the novel is pretty precious and you probably don't want to sacrifice any space to some ideas or concepts or characters that just aren't necessary to the novel so tip number six is to look for scenes that violate rules that are previously established so maybe you indicated that technology works in a particular way in your world and then you have a scene where it progresses the plot but the way they use the technology to progress the plot violates those rules that you establish and you know that you're gonna have to change it indicate that in your outline so that you can keep that in mind so that you know that that's something you're going to have to work on sometimes these seemingly small changes like writing out a mistake or writing out a place where you violated the rules it can seem like it'll be an easy fix I'll just deal with it later but then when you get into it sometimes it actually requires much bigger changes like rewriting or altering two or three or ten other scenes so it can be really helpful to address those issues early on so that you know that you've fixed that issue with the rule or you fix that violation and you don't have to worry about rewriting and then discovering that you've messed up or it still doesn't make sense or it's not that simple of a solution and then you have to start over or edit a whole bunch of scenes again of all of these things to look out for probably the most important one is to look for the scenes that do not advance the plot that don't provide any new information that don't push the character towards their goal or farther away from their goal that don't demonstrate something important about your character or their characterization or character arc the scenes that just aren't going anywhere because those are the scenes that can really really drag down your story it's not uncommon for writers to find that maybe 40 50 even as much as 80% of the scenes in their novel fall into this category after the first draft first drafts are notoriously sloppy especially if you didn't plan ahead you might not find that you have a whole bunch of scenes that just do not progress the plot when you get rid of those scenes you can really see what you have left over you can really examine it and determine what's worth preserving here what what do I have to work with when I strip out all that's not working what is working and then how do I want to fill in the gaps there so I really hope this video helped to give you a jumping-off point for your edits so that maybe you have a little bit of a better idea of how you want to approach the editing process if you have any questions about editing or you want any follow-up videos just let me know in the comments this is the second last video for a novel boot camp I will try not to disappear after novel boot camp is over but I will definitely not be posting at this frequency level I really enjoyed making these videos for you guys and I really hope that you found it helpful happy writing guys so I'm just gonna run through a few tips for the editing process some see Toby quiet hey Toby I need you to be quiet Shh I need you to be quiet No

39 thoughts on “How to Edit a Novel Using an Outline

  1. Your videos are worth more than the money and time I've spent on most of the books on the craft.

  2. Well, I've finally left your Group. little One (Ellen). But I will still watch your Videos. TCB.

  3. How do I get a Third Floor without a First?. Easy. Plan your Chapters with your Character POV as you go along

  4. You totally got this. THANK YOU for your generosity & skill. I will join your bootcamp. I hope you will accept my request to edit my memoir.

  5. Ellen, I did not know that you were a dog person. your dog looks happy. Good for you.

  6. In editing, I often remind myself, "Have the self discipline to throw away good scenes so that all you have left are great ones."

  7. Thanks for the great advice! Can you make a video of tips for adding conflict?

  8. Allot of these sound like ways to keep track of continuity.
    At least for shows I find some of them rely too much on conflict and I tend to get burned out trying to stay involved or immersed with the story.

  9. Ellen,
    Thanks for the tips. Can you add more examples after providing your tips?

  10. Hi Ellen and many thanks for your great videos – a suggestions: you should add a slide at the end with your name and website info – a few seconds – thanks again!

  11. You deserve more subscribers. Very professional explanation and production

  12. I'd like to hear your recommendation for "model books". Like books that are really good with the plot construct, or voice, or good introductions, etc. Reading is a great way to learn how to write, so I'd like to know where it would be good to go.

  13. I love these videos! So clear, to the point, and relevant.

  14. Thank you for this helpful video. I like the bloopers too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. OMG TOBY IS SOO ADORABLE ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜

  16. Toby…ssh!
    This video was great. Really gave me confidence on editing (and, well, the whole writing process!).

  17. Hey Ellen. I was wondering if you had any book recommendations for editors.

  18. Could you please explain how to approach an agent or a publisher ?

  19. Hi Ellen,
    You often say to cut irrelevant scenes, but my story is full of parallel and side stories that don't advance the plot of the main characters.
    I think my side stories are interesting, not slow or boring at all, and I think they enrich and compliment the overall ambiance.

    Are there any ways to keep them? If they're brief and fast paced is it alright? Or, is there any thing else you can go over along these lines?

  20. It's a new day on EBCommentiana of the Editorum planetary system. It's a vibrant world filled with fresh faces overflowing with optimism, kissed by newborn knowledge from the glowing ginger sun. However, this brilliant world harbors a dark secret: when you post a comment with errors in it, the intire planet is erased. OH, CRAP! NO, EB, N…………………………………………….

  21. I see a blossoming of a gifted communicator and teacher! In the understanding, that obligations, You have to fulfill, in order to feed Your assistant, keep You from full throttle YouTube, an idea: independent videos with "edits" of "classics", people like to emulate. That with focus on the pitfalls for unsuspecting copycats. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Keep up the good work; And the good spirit!

  22. Ellen, I wonder if you could go into more detail at a later date, of the next step the editing process, like how you line edit, etc. With maybe you going through a 1st page of a few brave souls who don't mind you ripping apart their work on the internet. That would be amazing to see what you look for in the prose, stuff like that.

  23. I'm a new subscriber (a few days) and I love watching your videos, it's motivating me for my first novel. I was wondering if you could make a video about foreshadowing? What are good and bad ways of foreshadowing? Have a good day!

  24. how do you use the outline? mark it up with different colored ink or highlighter, what needs to be changed, and cross out the parts I don't want? just curious because it sounds like the outline could get to be a huge mess. The way I work, it would!

  25. So basically make sure every scene is the character trying to get a certain goal and also has something in the way of that goal. But you can also have scenes where they achieve the goal or subgoal I would assume. Otherwise cut the scene?

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