When you’ve finished your first draft and you’re happy with it – let the editing begin!
The good news is that you can’t do all this yourself; you need to get some help. The bad news is that you still have quite a bit of work to do.
1. Check for consistency
I keep an Excel spreadsheet going from the minute I start the book and for each chapter I note all the significant things that happen, and also any character features that are mentioned.
Another tool that might be helpful is a character reference sheet which you would create for each person making a note of hair/eye colour and any particular traits.
You may find it helpful to look for images online of people that best represent your characters. Alternatively you might like to think of the famous actors who might play the parts when your book is made into a film!
I’ve decided that the character, Birch, in Forever Lucky would be played by Bill Nighy – mainly because I’ve got a bit of a thing about Bill. Did I mention that?
2. Grammar – keep it simple
The main thing is to use commas and full stops correctly to aid the reader. Long sentences may leave the reader breathless if there are no commas. A comma is a pause. It also helps the reader to make sense of it.
Semi-colons – make sure you know how to use them before you start littering your work with them. Here’s a good example:
We have paid our dues; we expect all the privileges listed in the contract.
The bits before and after the semicolon support each other.
Make sure you use consistent fonts for chapter headings etc, and the same amount of indents spacing for paragraphs.
4. The Story
Make sure you clearly have a beginning, a middle and an end to your story. Be sure, you can pinpoint these three sections.
5. Don’t switch tenses
The easiest way of doing it is just stick to the past tense throughout.
6. Get someone you trust to read it through
Ask them to read it with a critical eye for consistency and grammar.
Note: whilst you might listen to their feedback on particular characters or the plot line, this is really your domain and so consider any comments they have carefully and decide whether or not you, as the writer, want to make the change and how you want to make it.
7. Cut out the dead wood
For each section, ask yourself: Do I really need this?
It is important that each chapter moves the story along in some way to keep the reader interested.
Avoid overly long and wordy sentences.
Take out any repetition i.e. where a piece of the story is re-told in dialogue or by the narrator. We only need to hear it once.