Paying Attention to Your Words: Novel Editing, Restructuring, and Plot Development

By: Cathryn Lavery on

“When I began editing my novel, I hadn’t the slightest idea where to begin. It had been quite a while since I’d edited something of that size, that required that much attention. It was like I was learning how to read my words all over again, like they were set down in front of me for the first time. I did a bit of research, really honing in on some of the major changes I may want to make as I watch the story unfold a second time. During the writing process, I spent a good chunk of my time really setting up for my editing process to be the slightest bit easier. I made sure to highlight important scenes or plot points, commenting on them with questions I had at the time so that I could make the most out of my changes when it was finally time to make them. I’m still learning, that is evident, but I can safely say that I now view the editing process in an entirely different light. I have a much deeper appreciation for how much work goes into editing a piece, and how one small alteration can really change the entire progression of your story.”

Novel editing is no easy feat, and trying to aim for perfection isn’t the way to go. When I began, Ifelt like I had an entire list of things I wanted to change, to develop, to really give my novel a different approach than it had when I had been writing the first draft. That was, until I actually started editing it. I’ve finally allowed myself to let go of wanting to finish with a perfected final draft, and just started to focus all of that attention on making sure that the novel reads well, that the story is riveting, and that it is something that I am proud of. There were certain parts of each chapter that, at the time of writing, I was so sure I’d change in the editing process. It turns out, those weren’t what needed changing, those small details really did allow for me to really voice what I was trying to convey, painting a picture, if you will.

The major changes that I’ve come across so far predominantly have to do with developing major plot points a bit further, and not jumping from one scene to another to abruptly. There was a certain flow that I wanted to be showcased throughout this story, an unfolding of events that could be traced back to the very beginning, and that alone called for quite a bit of attention to detail. As I went through each page of each chapter, I pondered on those questions I had in the very beginning, trying to decide whether changing a certain action or dialogue was absolutely necessary to the bettering of the storyline.

It so happened that I was able to really read the novel the way I wanted it to be heard, being able to stop myself ever so often to work on a certain scene that needed a bit more time, that needed to be developed a bit further because that change can very well add to how the story is being perceived. Developing the plot was necessary, and that is where majority of my focus was. There were quite a bit of scenes that felt a bit lacklustre, but they were still pivotal to the story’s progression and they needed a bit more substance. Going through, rewording a few sentences, cutting unnecessary scenes, and really allowing to hone in on the story’s true purpose, what my characters are trying to say in all that they’ve been going through. I can really say that I can see where this novel is going, and where the story might go if developed further. That in itself is a comforting feeling, that has given me the kind of fulfillment that made me want to do this in the first place. It is going to take work, but making progress alone keeps me motivated.

In the beginning, unable to see how I was going to tackle this novel I had written back in November of last year, I began to worry if it was going to end up like the others – tucked away in a folder never to be seen again. This year I knew I wanted to make bigger changes, put forth much more effort to really achieve these goals I’ve set for myself, and now that editing my novel is well underway, I can appreciate that I am actively working towards bringing my dreams to fruition. Again, writing a novel is no easy feat, nor is editing one, but they’re both such rewarding processes. Both of which I want to continue to do, learning more, doing more.

If you’re still unsure of where to begin, forget about jumping straight into the editing process. Sit down, pour yourself a cup of tea, and read your novel like it should be read. Don’t worry about making any changes the first way through, make a few notes along the way, so when you really get down to it, you’ve got a way to start. That is what worked for me, and I do hope that it helps you as well.

Happy editing!

Thank you for reading!


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