5 tricks for editing your story

5 tricks for editing your story - Write into the Woods

I’m struggling through a final edit of the novel I’ve been working on, on and off, for seven years.
Seven. Years.

So now you’ve gone through your story, fixed the character development, filled in the plot holes and added in those extra scenes you came up with last night. All that’s left is that final edit. That one last brush up to make sure everything is in place, there’s no obvious mistakes and the rhythm works.

How do you read through that novel that you’ve already read so many times and know inside out? Well…


 1. Hemingwayapp.com

This is what I’ve been using. Simply copy and paste your words in (I’ve been going chapter by chapter) and work your way through. It highlights complicated sentences, passive voice, adverbs and words that could be replaced with something simpler.While you don’t have to change everything it highlights, the great thing about this app is that it breaks up the blocks of words you’ve been staring reading repeatedly. (Seriously. Seven years.) By highlighting specific words and sentences, this great app helps you spot mistakes and inconsistencies, whether highlighted or not, that your brain would otherwise gloss over.

The website app is free, but if you really love this app you can download the desktop version for a cost.


Hemingwayapp.com has been helping to shed new light on my novel


2. Read backwards

I read about this tip a lot but never thought it would work. It does! With every chapter I start at the end. I take it sentence by sentence, a paragraph at a time. It does wonders to take you out of the story which in turn helps you recognise which words you overuse, which sentence don’t work and those spelling mistakes.


3. Have another project going on

Unless you find editing really exciting (I don’t), have another project ongoing. A writing project. Where you’re actually writing, instead of reading, thinking and changing words.
A lot of writers do this. It means that when you procrastinate from your main project, instead of going on Facebook (ahem) you can open up your new manuscript and get to typing. You’re being naughty and avoiding what you have to do, but you’re being productive and getting your next project done at the same time.Yeah, this is one tip that I’m not following. Every week I mean to plot out my new novel that currently resides in my head. Here we are. Another week, and no new project. And let me tell you, I’m on Facebook way too much.


4. Read aloud

Once I’ve gone through a chapter backwards, I go through it forwards. Out loud. Yeah, my husband doesn’t like this trick much. Apparently I shouldn’t narrate my own audiobooks. But I’m pretty sure my guinea pig loves it.Reading aloud helps you pick up on the rhythm of your story. You’ll spot which words you like to use too much, which sentences are too long and the sentences that are back to front or need rewriting will jump out at you.

Plus, you know, you can do voices.


Trick 4 - Read it out loud. Remember to put on the voices.


5. Let someone else read it

You can get a couple of beta readers, people who read your genre, to go through your story. Or a willing friend or relative can help. Just pick a friend or relative who you trust to be honest with you.
The key to this is not just asking what they thought of the story but asking them specific questions. See if they noticed any of the parts you’re worried about. Ask them what characters felt weak, did they understand certain things, and did everything make sense. Plus, a fresh set of eyes is more likely to spot any punctuation and spelling mistakes you missed.Okay, so most places say you should get a beta reader. I disagree. I can’t find any evidence that suggests my favourite writers ever had beta readers. In fact, I’m pretty sure that a lot of famous authors wrote their novel, edited it and sent it to agents full of those ‘bad’ adverbs and poorly constructed sentences. They still got published and they still found success.
So just do what feels right for you.

And that sentiment runs all through the writing process. Do what feels right to you. Polish your work until you’re so proud and in love, but then you need to put it out into the world. Whether you’re going down the self-publishing or traditional route.

Even though you’re editing and reworking your masterpiece, it doesn’t need to be completely perfect when you send it out. Just make sure you’re happy with it, then get it out there. It’s not going to find representation/sell copies when it’s sat on your hard drive going through its hundredth edit.


On that note, back to the final edit I go. Happy editing!

The novel is now available! You can get Matter of Time here.




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2 thoughts on “5 tricks for editing your story

    1. It is really good. I think editing my novel would be like pulling teeth without it! I hadn’t thought about using it for blog posts, that’s a great idea!

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