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How to Edit a Book


Writing a book is only half the struggle, maybe less, but they won’t tell you that when you start out. This isn’t out of some malicious intent, it’s because we don’t want you to give up! It’s because we know you can do it if you set your mind to it. It’s because we believe in you.

Anyway, so you’ve written this draft and for about five minutes you think you’re great. Maybe you head over to twitter and shout out your success using plenty of hashtags and exclamation marks. There’s nothing wrong with this but what you will soon discover is that’s not it. You’re not done. This isn’t that ever green field of grass you’ve been chasing on the horizon. This is just a moment in your journey. What comes next, people will tell you, is editing.

How to Edit a Book

How horrific, you’ll think, but, I suppose it won’t take me long.

It will because it always does. It will because you care, and caring means you’ll put in the most effort you’ve ever put into something before you’re done.

You’ll take yourself to the edge and back again before you’re done with this book but that’s just the way of you. People don’t set out to write books half heartedly.

There’s no set map to editing something. People can only tell you what they’ve done and then leave you to figure out what works best for you. For me, I leave the book for a while and then reread it. Then I start rewriting parts.

You might get like me for a while. Stuck in the valley of rewriting, doing loops and switching paths, because you started this book as a pantser but somewhere along the way you learned how to plot and now it’s obvious that a lot of things need redoing.

That’s okay.

Once it’s rewritten, I start layering in all the stuff I love in books but first drafts sometimes miss out. I link up things and create subplots. I give people backstories that I spend an age creating only to mention it once in a sentence. I see and feel the world I’m writing and I think about themes.

I go through the whole thing three or maybe four times but honestly, probably more than that.

Nobody can really tell you when you’re done editing but critique partners can help. They can read through and point out plot holes and fall in love with your characters as they read on a window sill listening to the rain fall. Get a few and form the strongest bonds with them you’ll ever know.  Not sure where to find them? Maggie Stiefvater set up a critique partner matchup google group a while back and it’s well worth a look.

How do you edit?


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Mirka Breen February 21, 2017 at 4:33 pm

The link you brought up to Maggie Stiefvater’s critique-match is priceless. I had never heard of it.
Though I’ve not tried it, I have a couple of Beta readers for my MG and a critique group for my PB manuscripts. But the first edits are my own methods I developed to go over check-points and take the time to consider if I have done them right. They are different for PB and MG.

miahayson February 21, 2017 at 11:48 pm

The critique match group is so valuable!! If you ever need more readers or crit partners I cannot recommend it enough as it really helps you find people that you match really well, plus everyone seems to go into it with an open heart and understanding that you have to try a few times before you find the right person.

I can imagine PB and MG must be quite different to go through! It’s interesting to hear how other people approach these things 🙂

Ruth Schiffmann February 27, 2017 at 1:35 pm

Oh my gosh, the revising takes me at least as long as the initial writing does, and often even longer. Current MS: 2 years to write, coming up on a year and a half of revising. *sigh* There are often times I think I’m done. Start querying. Get feedback. Revise. Resume querying. Get R&R. Revise. This has been the pattern with all three of my YA projects. Hoping to make it to the next stage soon!

miahayson March 5, 2017 at 1:50 pm

Man, rewriting takes me a LONG time too! I feel your pain!! I think with me it’s because I used to just pants everything and not plot. I’m trying to rid myself of that habit now as I really recognise that for me things go faster and are less convoluted if I have a vague plan at the start! I hope you make it to the next stage soon too 🙂

Becky B February 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

I self-edit until I get to the point where I realize I need to STOP editing already or I will never move on, ever, and will sit in a sea of superfluous commas and adjectives. That’s usually the stage where I’m in danger of hating what I’ve written. 🙂 Then I ship it off to an actual editor who does not have the emotional investment I do.

That critique link is gold! Thank you.

miahayson March 5, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Ahh! I’m super insecure so for me I go through at least a few waves of hating everything before I am done editing but…. when you’re at the nitty gritty you’re so right! It’s time to stop!!

No worries on the link!! I found my best writing buddies on there! It’s SO useful!!


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