After completing the exhausting feat of writing the first draft of your novel, you might be tempted to rest smugly on your laurels. You feel confident that your storytelling is in top form, surely checking all the boxes for a job well done. Not so fast!

While you deserve a congratulatory pat on the back for the enormous task of completing your novel, the harsh truth is that it is still quite a few benchmarks away from publication.

Although tempting to deny the need for some serious editing, the wise author understands what a pivotal role editing plays in publishing a successful novel.

So, gird your loins and set your jaw, as editing a novel can be a tedious and frustrating process. When running the manuscript through an editing software program like Grammarly, you may find yourself arguing with its recommendations—i.e., “What’s wrong with using passive voice?”

Although these handy programs are fairly accurate, technically, they lack the benefit of a human’s set of eyes. Human editors are familiar with colloquialisms and word usage issues, where a computer program has inherent limitations—especially when editing dialogue.

Even when editing a novel professionally, you may still find yourself chafing at the editor’s suggestions for improving the manuscript, despite the fact he or she has racked up decades of editing experience.

Of course, no one enjoys being corrected, but when it comes to the book editing process, it’s best to accept that pride and ego have no seat at the editing table.

When approaching the editing stage of authorship, do yourself a favor and understand it is a necessity. Indeed, writing and editing go hand in hand. To learn how to edit a novel, read on!

7 Steps to Edit Your Novel’s First Draft

Editing a novel actually occurs in stages. While it is always always a good idea to have someone edit a novel professionally, the first step of the editing process falls squarely into the author’s lap. Prior to passing the manuscript off to the professional editor, you will need to take some essential steps to clean it up.

Follow these 7 steps explaining how to edit a novel:

Step 1: Take a breather.

Putting some time and space between you and your novel can do wonders for getting you into the editing mindset. Once you have taken a few weeks off from the project, you can return to it with fresh eyes.

Step 2: Do a macro overview.

Grab the original outline of your story and use it as a barometer during your first reading of the manuscript. Did you stick to the outline or make revisions along the way? Did you wander off track? Did you add scenes? At this stage, don’t worry about the typos and small corrections. Instead, zero in on the structure and plot, and tune up the outline in the process.

Step 3: Do the rough edits.

Here is when you clean up the obvious typos, grammatical issues, and punctuation errors. For the rough edit, use a book editing software program to help catch the majority of these and make corrections.

Step 4: Print the manuscript.

Take the document to a print shop and have them create a spiral-bound hard copy. Read through the hard copy, one chapter at a time, out loud. Make notes on the margins where you find inconsistencies, rough transitions, awkward dialogue, plot holes, and so on. Reading it aloud helps you discover areas that need to be smoothed out or altogether rewritten.

Step 5: Make the corrections.

Refer to the notes written on the hard copy and revise and update the Word document.

Step 6: Send out to beta readers.

Send off your cleaned-up first draft to 3 or 4 beta readers—people you do not know personally—and provide them with a list of the specific areas to focus on while reading your manuscript. The beta readers will provide insights about plot flow, character development, and dialogue. After receiving the suggestions, go back and make the revisions to your draft.

Step 7: Bring in the professional editor.

Once the prior 6 steps have been completed, your first draft will be in good shape to send off to a professional editor. Editing services range from offering macro guidance on structure and format to line editing and basic proofreading. The editor will help you spiff up the prose, plot points, and dialogue while catching any missed typos and grammatical issues. Once the formal editing process is completed, you will soon be ready for publication.

Get a Quote to Professionally Edit Your Novel

Now that you know how to edit a novel, you should be prepared for the final stages of the editing process. Gatekeeper Press can edit the first draft of your novel, polishing it in preparation for publication. For expert editing services, as well as general guidance on the entire publication process, contact Gatekeeper Press today!

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