How to Edit Your Novel Quickly and Efficiently



hi guys it's Ellen brach freelance editor today I'm going to talk about how to self edit your novel so the main mistake that writers make when they self edit is that they start small they start by looking at the sentences the language and the word choices instead of looking at the big picture this is going to take up a lot of time and it's probably going to end up being wasted time because once you look at the big picture you'll probably find that a lot of your sentences and a lot of your scenes and a lot of your plot points need to be changed so the best and most effective way to self edit is to start big and then work your way small so I recommend that you start by looking at the character arc because that really molds a lot of elements of the story so look at your character arc and determine are you telling the story that you wanted to tell is the character learning a lesson is there a clear difference in the character from the beginning to the end and does the journey across the character arc through the character arc doesn't make sense is it logical does it fold up once you know that your character arc is working then I would move on to the plot points if you're not sure what the plot points are the main pop was the first plot point midpoint second plot point climax I do have a series that I will link to that you can watch if you want to know what should happen at those plot points and where they should land in your novel so once you look at those plot points you could determine if the course structure of your novel is working so once you know that that's the case and you may find that it's just not the case and it may take you a long time to fiddle with the story or adjust the story and you may make some major changes to make sure that those plot points are present once you know that they're there then you can move on to looking at your scenes and I recommend looking at each scene individually if you really want to be thorough about it you could make a chart and you could chart out every single scene and you could write the conflict the goal the outcome of the scene and you can really list everything out and look at it at a glance this can help you to identify scenes that just aren't needed or aren't effective so that is the next step in the process is to get rid of those scenes that you don't need and you might also want to look at scenes that just aren't having the level of tension that you want or aren't as emotional as you want and you can look at how can I make these scenes better how can I make them more engaging how can they have more conflict or more attention and this is a stage where you can alter those scenes to be more interesting so once you get through all of that which will probably take a pretty good amount of time then you can look at the line editing you can go through your sentences and your paragraphs and you can look for word choices that don't really fit phrasing that's just kind of clunky repeated words point of view issues there are lots and lots of potential things you can look for when you're lying editing so that is the order that I would self edit start with the character arc then the major plot points then look for scenes that can be cut then look for scenes that can be changed or improved and then look at your sentences and go through line by line and adjust and improve the language the line editing process for a lot of writers will take multiple passes they might need to go through the manuscript five or six times to make sure everything sounds okay and to make sure they haven't made any mistakes with point of view or tense so be patient with it make sure you give it the amount of time that you need because it's a really important part of the editing process so I hope this video gave you a better idea of how you can self edit your novel if you have any questions or a video request you can post them in the comments and I really hope this video helped please like subscribe and I really hope to see you guys again for another video soon

36 thoughts on “How to Edit Your Novel Quickly and Efficiently

  1. "Get rid of those scenes you don't need…"
    feeds first draft manuscript into paper shredder Done! ^.^

  2. Just try to resist throwing it out of the window! That's what I have to keep telling myself -__-

  3. really informative and helpful, thanks so much 🙂

  4. Thank-you so much for this Ellen! These steps seem like they will be really helpful. I feel that starting big will actually help make the process feel less overwhelming.

    Hayley ^_^

  5. Oh my gosh! Thanks for this. I just started revising my first draft and I was feeling lost. This helped me to see that I am on the right track for editing. Love your videos. Thanks!

  6. I don't know if I should change this in my book, I was writing a Conversation between two characters, in the middle of the conversation I realized that I didn't mention the other characters name. So then I wrote "I forgot to ask…. What's your name?" Then he answers, she says hers, he said he knows, she asked how, he doesn't answer and continues the story that he was telling. Should I change this? Does it make sense?

  7. As a full-time editor I thought you really hit some key points for new writers.

  8. Wow, this breaks down the self-editing process into manageable chunks. Many thanks!

  9. Another great video! I haven't looked on your website yet, but do you have any sort of checklist for self-editing? Or can you suggest a good book or source that would offer a checklist? Thanks!

  10. Ugh. I wish I saw this earlier. I've spent so much time editing small things that mostly need to be entirely changed anyways due to plot and structural changes. I only just realized this recently.

  11. I'm editing my first novel and your videos are helping SO MUCH! They're keeping me motivated and making me think more critically about the choices I've made in the story. Thank you!!

  12. Fifth video that I watched today and I was like, 'wow, her hair is longer here… she's so pretty!'. And I kind of lowered the volume because it's much louder now. Thank you for posting these videos. I'm planning to publish my books soon (self-publish) and your videos are really helpful!

  13. Thank you! We did some rough bigger editing and then started line editing and then beta readers with parts and surveys. Which is great for the beta readers cause they had a higher quality result but now we rearrange some things (luckily not too much) and that leaves us with reediting :-)…. Next time we will for sure do top down like you describe it… (By the way sending the books to beta readers in four major parts with four distinct surveys was great!)

  14. Lately, everytime i log onto youtube i hope that you have posted a new video. These videoes are beyond awesome. And I have talked about your videoes to all of my friends, even though i do not write, and my friends do not write. (But we are suckers for a good story..)

    I really do feel more enlightened after listening to you.

    Thank you so much for doing this!!

  15. hello ellen want to talk to you about an idea. so when and how?

  16. Are there ever any situations where stories can be effective without following the typical plot points? How does an author know when a storyline is a sub plot of a single story or if the story should be split into different books? Does it have to do with length and character arc only or are there other factors?

    Thank you!

  17. Thanks for this. Really helpful. I'm in the thick of editing my first book and I'm learning a lot, mostly the hard way ha-ha. I enjoy your videos

  18. I believe that you can do this but still need someone else to edit later. If I am writing a novel it is my BABY! I believe that an outside eye is needed to really put a unobscured view to the editing proceeds and this unobscured view needs to be able to tell you what and where it needs fixed without worrying how you feel. Kind of a tuff love effect. If you are serious about putting a novel on the market then you will take the criticism and run with it. This really will help!

  19. It's an old CD I bought in England twelve years ago, but those Twelve years are also the Twelve plot points. Old World  New World and Ten more Chapters from First Conflict  to Last.  New Novelist was the Title!

  20. Why don't books contain a "deleted scenes" section at the back?!!

  21. Thank you for these videos. They're a great help and motivation. when I finally finish my idea, I'll come to your site for professional help.

  22. The more I watch your videos the more daunting writing a book seems.

  23. Hello Ellen! I'm a new writer, so I'm not that great yet, but there's something that I need help with. I've searched far and wide for "how to describe things in your novel" and all I got from that was that people tend to describe way to much but that's not the case for me. I'm having a hard time describing things and writing enough about it so that you can get a clear picture. I would like some tips on how to describe enough about something so that you now what the author means. Maybe even throw in some good words to use (since I'm not English speaking and have a pretty small vocabulary) Ofcourse I know a couple of "advanced" words but I want to know more.
    Thanks in advance! /Eric

  24. as usual, great advice 🙂 Working your way from big to small is a universal principle, but I didn't think to apply it to editing a novel… now I will!

  25. So, you are saying to self-edit in this order: character arch, major plot points, scene cut, scene improve, line edit (pov, word choices, clunky phrases, tense). Love it. Thank you!

    PS I am an autobiographical ghostwriter, and although most of my writing is based on nonfiction I still think this is going to help a lot.

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