I actually finished editing Chapter 1 of my manuscript a while ago, but it’s a pretty long chapter, so I’ve been lazy typing it up. I’m still on my “Alpha” round with just me, but I’ve reached around Chapter 7 of my novel (it really should be Chapter 4, but for some reason I did the numbering weird), so I’m considering sending it out to a few close family members or friends who I know will not judge me by my first draft soon.
For now, I’ve been crushed under a deluge of characters and editing. I’ve made the difficult decision to put my current project, which is just 500 words in, on hold until I finish editing my novel, or at least until I get around halfway through it and start in on the “Beta” stage where I send it out to others whom I know and trust for proofreading purposes.
I’ve also decided to include a GIF or funny picture at the end of each of these, simply because it helps relieve the frustration that I feel every time I have to read my novel, because it’s just so annoying to edit, whatwith its grammar mistakes, content errors, and everything else that came with it.
Until then… I suffer at the hand of my wonderfully-written novel.
The CyberWorld, Chapter 1
- Don’t start off with the history of the world your novel’s set in. Throw your readers into the plot a little and let them swim. No need to explain everything. You have 60,000 words to do that later.
- “Only they got the luxuries of a real name. ‘Sarah Alyson?’ he asked me.” Don’t say something in your narration and then contradict your narration with details. In my example, the narrator says that only somebody other than her got real names, but then contradicted that statement by having a “real” name as well. (No, Sarah Alyson is not the real name of my main character, but her name is kind of invented by me, unique, so I’m just going to call her Sarah Alyson on this blog.)
- Stick to one tense. If you have to, do writing exercises while you’re writing the book to make yourself stay in the same tense.
- “But the humans destroyed them, gave them up, and condemned us to live here.” Um, is the narrator a human?! Because she’s talking about humans like she isn’t one.
- Don’t try to explain your world through dialogue. I’ve been told this time and time again, and, lo and behold, I didn’t pay any attention to it.
- Please, please, please don’t make your readers read a newspaper article in order to understand the world around them. Especially if that newspaper article is in addition to paragraph after paragraph of description.
- Don’t make your characters’ reactions rushed, but at the same time, don’t make them too slow. Give your characters a moment to pause before going into the revelation about his or her name/birthday/pet rock. On the other hand, don’t give them a full chapter.
- “The date is 3-27-3043.” Don’t list out the date like this. Write the date in longhand, like “March 27, 3043.” And also don’t do what I did and use “the date is…” unless your speaker, like mine, is a robot. No joke. (And yes, I do happen to be writing a science fiction set over a millennium the future!)
- Fit the year. If it’s a million years from now, show some advanced tech at least. Their “basic” tech should be stuff we don’t even have yet–holographic eye widgets, life habitats, everything. Also, think about whether humans would even be anything like us in 1 million years. Is it time to change the date to something a little closer-by?
- “I shivered, and mustered up the courage and took two steps–just two steps that carried me into the corridor–before he could utter a snide remark.” There are so many things to learn from this quote! (1) Make sure that if your character is afraid of something, it’s something they should really be afraid of, or it’s characterized as being scary before (2) keep your characters… in-character. If a character has never uttered a snide remark, why should Sarah be afraid of him muttering one right now? (3) characterize your characters throughout the novel. Just two chapters later, Sarah Alyson’s not afraid of running away from home or destroying the world as she knows it (crude oversimplifications, but… it’s complicated.)
- Don’t be influenced by other books. I’ve found my writing style changes dramatically depending on the book I’m reading, and it’s so much drier and more Sarah by the end of the book than at the beginning of the book. I was reading Divergent when I first started writing this novel, so some of the things Sarah does are very Tris.
- Don’t be redundant. If the door’s disguised as a part of the wall, why would it need to be further hidden in the shadows?
- Characterize your characters really well in the first chapter. Then you can do whatever you want with them, and the readers will get the connotations and understand what you are doing with the character and what the character’s reaction/feeling to the situation is and why.
- “He grabbed a key and inserted it into the wall. A click like it was unbarring itself.” There are places where sentence fragments work and there are places where they just don’t work. This is one of those places where they don’t work.
- Use early-on abandoned plot strings to tie into your final and finished plot. There’s stuff that was supposed to mean something at the beginning of my novel, but could end up meaning something else.
- Speak like a native of your character’s world would. If color intrigues your character, never make her wince or look away from it.
- Don’t use clichés unless they’re on purpose!
- “In the morning, I felt a bit better.” This should not be the start of a paragraph.
- Split long chapters into multiple chapters, especially if there are places in which the chapter can be easily split.
- Elaborate and explain things your reader may not know and NEEDS to know about your world.
- By the end of your first chapter (especially if it is as long as mine, you will be loathing your book and your world and your characters and you may be tempted to take a very long vacation from editing) your will probably be like this: (the glass representing the way to a good novel and the Doctor and Donna, aka the people in this GIF, representing you, the editor of the novel)
And that’ll be about it.
This has been a bit of a long post, and I thank all of you who have been willing to read it the entire way through. If you’ve really managed it, and didn’t just skip ahead to the GIF at the bottom because you were bored, you are a star. 🙂
Having fun with my novel editing,
InkOutLoud inspired me to share with you the ups and downs of editing my manuscript, through her LiveBlog: In Which I Edit My Manuscript series.