The next review is a particularly challenging one for me, dealing with long chapters. I keep a spread sheet up to date with chapter number, title, word count, total word count, page count, and total page count. For me this is essential so that I can see how the book is progressing.
It will immediately be apparent where the long chapters are. Sometimes they are essential and needed. Other times the writer has tried to put too much detail into something that is unnecessary. Be brutal and go through these chapters and cut out what is not needed.
I used an NLP technique called “chunking up” and deleted over 5,000 words from one long chapter. I was able to do this because I took a different approach and looked at the work in a different way. In this instance by taking a higher level view of the material.
One of the most valuable edits is the “does it add to the story?” edit. This is an essential edit because like it or not, there will be some great passages in there, but they simply do not move the story on. They may be fabulous writing, but are not needed. Be brutal and cut them out. If the section does not move the story or the characters forward, delete it.
By now, you will probably be goggle eyed and know the story backwards. Unfortunately there are still things to be done. These are:-
The font change edit. This is a technique I picked up from a writing friend and colleague. Copy the work to a brand new file on your pc and once saved, change the font to something completely different. Print it and read it. You will be amazed how many errors you spot this way.
Next comes the slow read through. For me as a speed reader this is all about restraint. In this slow read through look for weak writing, such as active v passive voice, show and tell and so on. Really take the time to read what is actually on the page and not what you think it says. Be sure to check on common phrases and words used to start sentences. I took out a large number of “now, so, but, yes, well” and so on in this edit.
The next edit is the notebook continuity check. In this edit you take every single note you have made in your notebook throughout the life of the book and check everyone off, item by item. Typically these are things like-
“In chapter 2 I said Fred had blue eyes. Did I say he had green eyes in chapter 7 or 8?”
“Check the name of Gracie’s uncle. I am sure I changed it half way through, but it may still be Bill somewhere in the first 3 chapters.”
“Does Jean drink wine or gin? Make sure this is the same throughout.”
This notebook continuity check edit is vital. If you don’t do it, someone reading it will find these errors, trust me they will and it will annoy them.
One of the last steps I have now started to do is send the manuscript to a professional copy editor. I wait until I have done all of the stages covered so far so that it is as good as I can get it. The copy editor will find things you have overlooked, even at this late stage. It is well worth doing, just make sure you know what it is you are asking them to do and be sure about the price before you send it.
After all of this work there will be two more edits required. Firstly to attend to things that the copy editor had picked up that you agree with. Take your time with this, it is a very necessary and important step.
At this “pre-submitted” stage, the “last” edit is to read it through again slowly and fix those little things that you find. There won’t be many, but there will be some.
By now you are sitting at somewhere around 14 or 15 edits of your manuscript. It may well be that this process has taken considerably longer than it took to write in the first place. The important thing is that now your book will be sharp, punchy and attractive to potential agents and publishers.
The other thing to consider is that your book will now be around 15 to 20% shorter than the first draft. Honestly it will.
In a fantasy faery tale I have recently got to a good place and ready for submissions, it started at 140,500 words. It ended up at 117,010 words, a edit of around 16.5%.
These are other top tips for your writing and managing your writing are provided in my latest book,
It is also available from me directly, just reply to this post with your contact details and I can take it from there.