Welcome back to the wonderful world of editing. I'll pause so you may groan.



Don't worry, you'll pass



The best writing comes from good editing. Once you've done this  process, that sentence will make sense. Think back to a creative writing course you took in high school or college, and think of some of the things you read. Some were great. Some were shit. The truth is, anybody can write, but not everyone can write well. However, if you know how to edit correctly, than yes, you can be shit writer and turn out a good product.

So your main focus this go-round will be having a coherent plot. What's that you say? "Of course it's coherent!"? Take a moment to step back, and think about your father or mother. What comes to mind? The things they say, how they embarrass you, the hopes and dreams of yours they laughed at, etc. Maybe they seem out of touch, or worse, like my father, they know who Li'l Wayne is and it horrifies you. But did you know they were once a dynamic lover? That's how they ended up mating and making you. Perhaps your father could once make a bong out of an apple, or your mother had unnaturally colored hair and once told your grandparents to fuck off. See, if I met your mother or father I would see both sides. You can only see one because you're so close. It's the same with your manuscript.

The plot makes sense to you, you're the god of that universe. You know who did it before the protagonist solved the mystery, and you know all about your characters childhood. For example, I know a secret about the missing woman Mary Beth Anderson from Case Of the Missing Millionaire that you don't. And you never will. Why? because it mullies the  plot, explains a lot, but detracts from the flow of the mystery. So how did I know that? Critique readers.



Yes, it's a clue,but no, you're wayyyy off



I hope you have critique readers. They are extremely important to have. If you post on a writing site you can use fan comments, but recruit specific fans for this, or have friends who read often and know about the writing process. Give them your manuscript and ask them to read it. You can ask them to identify any spelling/grammar errors they find, but it's not your main focus. This is:


1: Does the plot make sense?
2: If not, where is it weak? Where is it confusing?
3: How is the pacing? Does it feel too fast, too slow?
4: Questions tailored to genre

The last is your personal subset of questions that often depends on genre. Some common ones are as follows;

Westerns
Is there anything anachronistic that sticks out?
Does it feel genuine and gritty?

Mysteries
Are the red herrings doing their job, or are they too weak or too distracting?
Are there enough suspects?
Does the real culprit appear often enough throughout to remain in memory?

Romance (General)
Is the chemistry between protagonists palpable?
Is the pacing of sex right for the time period?
Is the male a true Alpha?
Are the protagonists well-rounded and fleshed-out?
Is the language of the sex scenes correct?(Frank for erotic, more euphemistic for traditional)

Science-Fiction
Is there sufficient description of technology to keep the reader aware this is an alternate world/dimension/time period?
Does the technology play enough of a role in the conflict or plot?

Fantasy
Is there enough description of the culture to keep the reader aware this is an alternate world/time period?
Is there a logical flow to the politics, economics, culture, or technology so the reader is never jarred?

Crime
Is it gritty enough the reader remains in an anticipatory mood?
Are there any distracting bird walks that detract from the pacing?

Young Adult / Children's
Is this written in an age appropriate manner?
Does the plot flow in a manner the right age group will follow and remain interested?

Action /  Espionage
Is this written like a mystery? (Apply all mystery questions)
Is it believable?
Is there enough description of the settings, people, and technology you can follow along?

Chick-Lit
Is there humor (there damn well ought to be)?
Is it light and fluffy, but still holds your interest?
Can a female reader easily relate to the protagonist?



Ask them to compare to a standard in the genre. IMHO this is the only chick-lit worth reading



There are many subgenres, but these are the big ones. Westerns, however, just don't sell. I  included them because those questions work id your fantasy novel is in a wild west setting, or perhaps your romance may be. If your novel spans two genres, ask all the questions for both genre. If your novel spans three, ask your readers if it seems busy, because it probably is. Make up your own as well!

I usually have specific questions related  to my own paranoia. For example, I worry it may read too much like some other work of fiction, or characters may feel too flat, or in the case of my mysteries, it's too bogged in endless red herrings (I write in the noir/hard boiled style which carries a few more red herrings than modern mysteries traditionally). I also worry in my non-erotic writings if I have too much sex, and in my erotic writing if I have too little. Lastly, like most writers, I worry my writing is inane and stupid..you'll worry too. we all do. No harm in asking, just be prepared for an honest answer.

Put these questions onto a form you give your critique readers. Explain carefully what you need, and tell them not to focus too much on spelling & grammar, that edit comes next and you want them to do this in about 2 weeks max. So send off copies to your critique readers, try to get 3. Give them a schedule and use the down time to keep working on researching agents and publishers. Or go get drunk, or better yet, take a peek outside and reacquaint yourself with sunlight and fresh air. 

Wait on doing a spelling & grammar edit until you get the critiques back. Wait to do any editing until they are all back. if all three readers had the same issue, you need to change it and fix it. If only one or two had it, discuss it all with them and make a judgment call. Remember to set your ego aside. the best thing to do as a writer is have no ego. Kill it. Kill it with fire. You will never survive as a writer with an ego, there are numerous criticisms and rejections coming your way. 



Try to pick critique readers who know the difference between constructive criticism and schadenfreude



Once you have the plot and pacing edits done, it'll be time for the drudgery of spelling and grammar. So another thing to do while you wait for the critiques to be returned is to pull our your grammar books and study up. Don't rely on the computer to know everything, MS Word has a pretty shitty grammar check as you either already know, or will discover.

So keep working my friends, you're getting there. If your goal was to write & publish within 1 year, you're 2/3s of the way there. Check back for the next lesson, and good luck!



I do recommend using your downtime to go outside. otherwise, like all writers, once you're done this is how you'll look