Writing Info

Top 10 Novel Editing Tips

Over the last few years, I’ve heard editing tips through various sources (writing critique groups, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, writing blogs, other writers, various professionals in the publishing industry, etc).  Here are my TOP 10 EDITING TIPS for people writing a novel. 

1.  Try not to introduce too many characters in the first pages of your book, as that will become confusing for a reader.  And don’t be afraid to “kill off a character” if they’re not helping move the story along.

2.  The opening line of the novel is important.  It must capture attention and create some kind of suspense.

3.  Use “says” or “said”as qualifiers after dialogue, if you have to use qualifiers at all.  Readers eyes are trained to easily skip over these qualifiers, so their use instead of other verbs helps move the story along. 

4.  It’s not as professional to write a word in all caps.  If you want to emphasize a word, italicize it instead.

5. Exclamation points should only be used in dialogue, not in narrative.

6.  There are no such words “forwards”, “backwards”, and “towards”.  The correct words are “forward”, “backward”, and “toward”.

7.  If you want your book to be a page turner (and it doesn’t necessarily have to be), the end of each chapter should be some sort of cliffhanger.

8.  If there are only two characters talking in a scene, you don’t have to include “he/she said” qualifiers. The reader can deduce who is talking.

9.  In dialogue, the characters won’t refer to each other by name like “Yes, Gwen, that would be fine.” No one uses names in real life when speaking.  People would instead say, “Yes, that would be fine.”

10.  Sometimes prologues are great, but I’ve heard a lot of people say if the prologue is so integral, just start the story there.  In general, the professionals doing workshops at SCBWI were against having prologues at all.


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