How to Get Started Editing Your Novel



hey guys it's Ellen Rock novel editor today I'm going to talk about editing your novel the two tools that I like to use when I work with clients that just make the editing process easier now there's not just one correct way to edit a novel anyway that works for you is perfectly fine I just want to talk about what works for me what I see working with clients and what I see is the most efficient way to go about the editing process I know a lot of writers struggle with efficiency with editing or they don't know where to start and editing can be really daunting so I'm gonna go through how I go about the editing process so hopefully that helps you so the type of editing I'm talking about in this video is developmental editing or big picture editing I always recommend that you start with the big picture fiddling around with word choices or the particulars of how you organize scenes or paragraphs is not the best way to start because what you want to do is start with the best possible structure and framework and then move into smaller and smaller details so I recommend two different tools for the editing process the first is an outline and the second is a plan for revision the outline does not need to be created in advance if you like to fly by the seat of your pants and you don't like plotting your novel that's no problem you don't have to create the outline in advance so at this point in the editing process the outline is just a way to see the plot in an easy and clear way and it's a tool that you can use to help move around scenes or determine which scenes to cut or change without needing to read the entire book because I can get distracting you can get tied up in word changes or reorganizing paragraphs or changing descriptions and we don't want to get into any of that at this stage we want to just look at the plot and the structure of the story and so I recommend that you keep your outline very basic and very simple so that you list scene one and then one or two sentences scene two one or two sentences it doesn't need to be complicated we just need to know what the character was trying to achieve the conflict and then what came out of that scene now this is a pretty tedious process it's not particularly entertaining to make one of these outlines but it can really help to streamline your editing process and it can save you a ton of time later so the second tool that I recommend is a plan for revision now this is super simple it's just a document that you list out all the problems that you're trying to solve I recommend using stronger organizations such as like subheadings and categories just to keep yourself more organized so maybe you have characters and then you list out every individual character and then maybe under those characters you might list out minor problems like issues with dialogue or the character arc and this can help to keep all the ideas organized so when you first create your plan for revision I recommend that you immediately before you even start looking at the outline or considering rearranging scenes that you just list out all the problems that you're aware of all the things that just come immediately to your mind these might be things that other people pointed out to you if you had any beta readers or any critique partners or they might just be things that you're not happy with so for example maybe you feel like the emotions aren't hitting or maybe the dialogue isn't very engaging maybe you changed your mind about the character arcs so you know you need to clean that up just everything that comes to mind that you know is a problem with the big picture so don't get caught up in weird choices or nitty gritty sort of organization of paragraphs or I don't like my writing voice or anything like that we're talking about just focusing on the big pictures the character the plot the pacing plotholes world building things that are not about the writing style or technique so once you have all the problems listed out I recommend that you then list all the possible solutions under each category so for example maybe you have character arc as a category and beneath that you have a brief explanation maybe you started out with the character arc focused on the character overcoming guilt but partway through the character started overcoming their insecurities instead so maybe you just have a brief sentence like need to choose guilt or insecurity based character arc and then beneath that you can do the possible solution so maybe guilt based character arc and insecurity based character arc as your two possible solutions when you do this with every different issue that you're aware of you'll start to get a sense of where these solutions overlap and where the solutions will take you in a different direction so for example if you decide that you want to change the care of your arc so that it's not about guilt more maybe the backstory of that character is now irrelevant or doesn't suit the novel and you want to take that out so then you need to add to your revision plan backstory change the backstory possible solutions alternate backstories then you might realize that that's going to impact some conversations that the character had or some ways that they related to other characters so then you'll need to add that to your plan and this is what makes editing so complicated because everything that you change in your novel basically creates a disaster somewhere else so part of why I recommend a revision plan is just so that you can wrap your mind around all of this and you can get a sense of how you want to solve the problems and how those solutions are going to impact all the other solutions or all the other problems or create new problems once you have your revision plan basically figured out that's when I would turn towards the outline and then start to look for problems in the outline I'm going to make a separate video to go over potential issues that you might find in the outline how you can determine which scenes to cut or change or alter this video is part of my novel bootcamp series I only have two videos left in this series I will try not to disappear on you guys after that I know I have a tendency to do that I get really busy I have so many edits that I do in a year and it gets really really chaotic but I'll do my best to make more videos for you guys always let me know what videos you're interested in in the comments I'd like to make sure that when I do come back I'm giving you guys the information that you want happy writing guys

32 thoughts on “How to Get Started Editing Your Novel

  1. Ellen I love you 😭 you make such great, helpful videos! Thank you!

  2. Thanks so much for this! I had no idea of where to begin with editing/revision!

  3. I'm so sad you don't post anymore! I love your content and find your videos so so helpful!!

  4. thanks for taking the time to give back to the community. I'm right at this stage with my first book. I've got lots of things to fix.this video answered several worries that I had.

  5. This was great advice. I've been looking for editing tips for forever and this is easily the most helpful I've seen!

  6. love your videos–I am working on my first novel and your advice has been invaluable. I have watched these recent editing videos several times. And Toby is a doll ☺

  7. Thanks for all. You rock! Can you talk about prologue and epilogue?

  8. But… but, EB… PROBLEM #1: what if I need to edit my outline? Do I create an outline for that outline? If yes, PROBLEM #2: GO TO PROBLEM #1

  9. No! No come back! 2 more! That's not enough!
    You can just post Toby videos and accidentally talk about writing. That's cool too.

  10. Each of your videos is like a hang grenade in my latest book. You cause me to rethink, remake, & redo. A most excellent learning process, by fire 😀

  11. Holy moly, Ellen! The first 90 seconds of this helped me SO MUCH, I can't even believe it – I've had this THING with word count eating up my time with piddling little changes with no end in sight — exactly what I needed to hear to proceed-THANK YOU!

  12. Thank you for this. You've been so helpful. My character arc has changed so much that the 2 scene back story I love so much is now in my "future" file. Working on my second revision and the batter is starting to look like a cake!

  13. Great stuff again! Do a vid on how to break through when you hit a brick wall in your story. A damn big brick wall.

  14. Please don't disappear on us! What will we do without your beautiful red hair?!

    In all seriousness, your videos are always packed with great advice that hasn't been repeated over and over again. I always look forward to your uploads!

  15. That revision planning document is a superb idea. 👍👍👍

    Once again, you have clearly and succinctly explained what I needed to know to help me with my story planning and writing. Thanks so much for this video! 😆😆😆

  16. Oh, I'm gonna miss you! I just found your channel😢
    But, I enjoy your content and find them useful! One particular subject of writing I'm curious about is exactly what is a generic character and why r they bad, plus an example one.
    Additionally, I'm a little concerned about my reading: I don't like reading the first chapter. I don't if it's b/c it's a bad one or I want in the story now. I don't like writing the first oage/chapter in my drafts. Is this unusual? What should I do?

  17. Hey guys! Sorry about the background noise. Toby (my dog/assistant editor) was throwing a toy around trying to get my attention. Hope it's not too distracting. I hope you find this week's videos about editing helpful! Thanks for watching!

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