“The first draft reveals the art; revision reveals the artist,” Michael Lee.
Once you’ve done the hard work of writing a novel or short story or poem or screenplay. Next comes the awful task of editing. There are three types of edits that your manuscript in whatever form it takes should go through. First, it should go through a developmental edit in this edit you should look for flaws in the structure, narrative, language, dialogue, and character. Second, is the copy edit in this stage of the edit you will correct all the grammatical errors, all the spelling errors, and double-check all the factual errors. The third is a line edit, in this edit you look at each word and make sure it’s the best word possible for the situation. In this blog, I want to look at the Developmental edit.
You want to do a developmental edit after you let the manuscript rest for at least two weeks, but as long as six weeks, the idea is to be able to look at the manuscript with fresh eyes and a fresh brain. You don’t want to glance over your mistakes because you are too familiar with them. For example, I had mixed up the names of my characters and thought I had fixed them all using find and replace, but some got left in my manuscript, and even though I read my manuscript five or six times I kept missing it my brain was too familiar.
When you go for the edits, you’ll read it five times once for structure looking for the following things.
Does the structure work?
Does the story begin and end in the right places?
Do parts of the story seem too long or too brief?
Do parts of the story seem too quick or too slow?
Should any parts be cut?
Is there anything that needs to be added to the story?
Once for narrative looking for the things that will make your narrative stand out.
Are there any spots of inconsistencies in the plot?
Is there any plotline that was never resolved or that should be cut?
Is there anything that doesn’t seem realistic to the story?
Check once for language making sure your words are doing the work you want them to do.
Are there any quirks of wording or grammar that crop up repeating throughout the text?
Is there too much or too little description are there many or too few modifiers?
Is the passive voice used too often?
What are the best elements of the writer’s style?
The dialogue will need to be looked at once to make sure that each character has their voice and that the words are efficient, that the dialogue moves the story forward.
Are there any filler words?
Is there any dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward?
Are there times that are predictable or cliched?
Are the character voices consistent?
Is the writer trying to unsuccessfully portray an accent?
The character will need to be considered at least once, as they are the reason your reader will care about what you have to say. Character is how you will connect with your reader, so you must get that right.
Are the characters underdeveloped or overdeveloped in proportion to their roles in the story?
Do they think and act consistently throughout the narrative?
Are there unnecessary characters?
When you’ve finished doing this type of edit, you can rest assured that you are going to be ahead of the game when you send it off to a professional editor to do a developmental edit. You must learn to do it for yourself. So you can save money, and you can learn to see and correct your writing. Learning to do this does not take the place of a professional edit, but it’s still important to do as part of your editing process.
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