Blog Series

How To Write A Novel: Editing For Content

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I’m going to start with a disclaimer:

I hate editing.

I know, I know. It’s essential for people to be able to easily read your work, and even better if they can understand what you’re saying without much effort. But for creative minds like mine… Well, let’s just say there is a reason I am pursuing a career in writing as opposed to editing.

If you want that ratty manuscript you’ve poured your blood and tears into to become something beautiful, well you’re going to have to edit.

If you’re not quite to the beloved ratty manuscript stage, check out the How To Write A Novel page and start with the link to whatever stage you are on. This post isn’t about writing, it’s about cutting.

How to write a novel. how to edit your manuscript for content.

After you finish your first draft, it’s important to read it through from beginning to end without interruption. This will help you get a feel for how your story flows, and spot any major plot holes. While reading, only note the significant things that need to be fixed right away, before you can go any further with your book.

All set? Great. Here’s what you’ll need:

Your notes from your First Read Through, a notebook, and a pen.

During the content edit, you won’t be worrying about spelling and grammar errors. I’m warning you, if you try to proofread before you do a content edit, you will end up wasting a lot of time. Why waste time going line by line and word by word if you may end up cutting entire pages from your book?

In your notebook, you’ll list things that need to be fixed, along with ideas on how to fix them (if you have any)

What you should be looking for:

  • Plot holes that need to be fixed
  • Character Arcs that need to be completed
  • Character Inconsistencies (changes in appearance, belongings, tone…anything that is not consistently described throughout the story.)
  • Setting/ world inconsistencies
  • Lines that would be better off completely removed from the story
  • Characters that don’t serve any purpose.

Remember every scene, sentence, and word in your manuscript must move the plot along, if it doesn’t, it need to go on your list next to the words to be cut.

I won’t lie to you, this part of constructing your novel is going to be rough. You will probably get overwhelmed at some point, and you may even cry.

You can get through it though! And, your book will be something you can be even more proud of when you are done.

Once you have listed everything that needs to be changed, you need to figure out how to change them. Make easy changes first, and give your mind a few days rest to think of fixes for more complicated errors.

Second Outline

Outlining is a great way to help you focus your ideas. I don’t outline too much before I begin writing a new book, but I do find it to be incredibly helpful after I’ve finished drafting. Since I tend to follow my characters, I don’t always know where my novel will end up when I begin writing it.

After I’ve completed my first draft, however, it is much easier to pen an outline, since I am now familiar with my story from beginning to end. Anything that doesn’t fit into your “beginning-to-end” outline needs to be cut.

After you’ve completed your list of things that need to be fixed and your list of ideas on how to fix them, it’s time to start revising.

More in the How To Write A Novel series:


Character Development

World Development




First Read Through

Do you have a particular editing process? Tell me about it in the comments below!

3 thoughts on “How To Write A Novel: Editing For Content”

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