How to Edit a Novel: Questions to Ask in the Editing Process

The self publishing market is estimated to grab as much as 50% of total e-book sales by the year 2020, and if you’re currently sitting on a manuscript now could be one of the best times to prepare it for publication. Platforms like Amazon KDP now make self publishing easier than ever before – and writers have all the reason in the world to consider releasing their next book through self publication channels.

Editing is an essential part of the writing process, but a lot of writers might shy away from it – especially ones that have never taken on the role of editing their own work for publication before. 

It’s not as hard as you think. Let’s dive a little bit into how to edit a book.

Here are some essential questions to ask yourself during the editing process that can result in a faster, better edit – and a flawless final product.

Are there any spelling or grammatical errors? 

One of the first things that an editor has to think about is the spelling and potential grammatical errors in their manuscript. A manuscript that has any spelling errors left is one that hasn’t been properly edited – and you should only publish your manuscript once you are 100% sure that all of the spelling errors have been removed.

Software like Grammarly makes this process a lot easier, and large amounts of text can be checked for things like spelling errors, grammatical issues and repetition. 

Could this be said in a better way? 

There are many times where things can be better said in written work. Whenever you wonder about the way you said something during the editing process, consider it a second chance to say it better. Highlight or mark any text where it could have been said better the second time around, then open up a word processor and write up a few alternate ways – think of synonyms, creative work-arounds and other ways to write it. 

Whenever the little editing voice in your head thinks that something could have been said differently, it’s usually right. 

Have I been too repetitive? 

Repetition of sentences and the over-use of some words are common when it comes to writing and editing manuscripts. While this shouldn’t bother you too much during the writing process, the editing process is also your second chance to get it right. When you’ve put on your editing hat, it’s time to remove any repetition that you spot in the text – and where it’s really repetitive, use a tool like Grammarly (or the Find tool on your word processor) to see just how many times you’ve used that word, term or sentence.

Did I get this right throughout the manuscript? 

One of the most important things for an editor is consistency. Use a style sheet for grammatical things (like fonts, font sizes and any grammar markings like ‘ versus “) to note where you’ve used what – and to make sure that you’ve done it the same way throughout the manuscript. 
Refer back to your notes for names and places to also similarly ensure you’ve gotten all the details right. 

Is there a better place for this section? 

Some things are best deleted entirely during the editing process, but a lot of other edits are much better suited by moving them to another place in the book (and sometimes writing some filler text around it in order to make it fit better). 

Never discard any text when you’re editing: First ask if this section would fit better anywhere else – often times the answer is yes, and you can safely relocate a few paragraphs to give the entire chapter a better flow.