Plotting a Novel: Part 8 - Editing

A Very Quick Look Tips for at a Very Important Vital Process: Editing a Novel

The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning. – Mark Twain

For 2023, Valerie Biel and I are exploring ideas about writing a first novel. We’ve discussed story development, the writing process, the ending—and everything in between, including the messy middle! For a list of what we’ve discussed, see last month’s blog post.

In August, Valerie discussed preparing a novel for editing or how to identify problems after a first draft. For September, I’m offering additional editing tips.

After finishing a novel, Valerie suggested letting it sit or “marinate” and re-reading it from a reader’s perspective. Excellent advice. Evaluating a story from a reader’s eye provides essential insight. (Beta readers are helpful at this stage, too.)

After that, it’s time to edit. But what type of editing does your story need?

According to Writer’s Digest, there are six types of editing: Developmental or substantial, overview, line or prose edit, accuracy/sensitivity, copy, and proofreading. Don’t let this list intimidate you—you can do it. If you’ve studied writing, practiced writing, tested your skills by attending workshops, and finished a novel, you can edit, too.

The good news about editing is that, like any discipline, the more you do it, the better you get at it. Good stories are not written, they are re-written, remember.

Let’s assume that your work has withstood a developmental and overview edit. The story’s plot holds, the protagonist has a decent story arc, and there are no gaping holes to be addressed. Valerie’s blog post last month discussed that type of editing. Next may be Line and Copy, Accuracy/Sensitivity, and Proofreading. What are those types of editing?

Line and Copy Edit

Write drunk, edit sober. ~Ernest Hemingway

Editing can be sobering, that’s for sure. It takes work. But remember writer, if you can finish a novel, you can edit a novel.

I suggest combining the line edit or rhythm of the narrative (paragraphs, dialogue, and scenes for overwriting, voice tags, or echoed words) with the copy edit (grammar, spelling, punctuation.) It’s a tedious grind, no doubt. But like exercise, it benefits for your heart, mind, and writing soul. By adopting an expert’s eye, you’ll discover your writing sins and be less likely to commit them while drafting your next novel.

Learn to strike excess words and phrases such as “very,” “some,” and “be able to.” Re-write cliches. Ask yourself if all that description you’ve included is necessary. Sometimes, fewer words convey more information.

Set aside time to do this editing. Do it in a quiet space while your mind is fresh. Turn off your phone. Have a paper nearby to jot notes. Take a break when you need it. Write something else, and then come back to this endeavor. Also, when feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. If you can’t afford to hire an editor for this, trade services with another writer—two writers are better than one, sometimes!

Accuracy or Sensitivity Edit

Accuracy means that you’ve checked for things such as a location, spelling, or correct use of an item. For example, a friend writes middle-grade horse stories featuring hunter-jumpers. If a bit or saddle is mentioned, she ensures it’s the type used for that discipline. Similarly, double-check for continuity errors (a tool or phrase is correct for period in which you write), and a glaring error would take a reader out of a story. A sensitivity edit means that someone familiar with an experience or lifestyle provides feedback about your novel.


Proofreading means to give a novel the final once-over. A novel’s formatted file or galley is proofed for correct elements such as chapter titles, graphics, and page numbers. This is another necessary duty when producing a polished novel. My definition of proofreading is that it proves editing a book never truly ends.

I attended a workshop about writing where the speaker was asked about editing. She admitted there always were things she’d change in her finished novels. At that moment, I recalled the quote, “good writing is never finished, only abandoned.”

Finally, keep it all in perspective. Editing is a necessary evil. By understanding the different types of editing, setting aside quiet time to do it, and then sticking to it, you’ll gain editing skills—and have a better novel!


Bookstore of the Month: The Shade Tree, Minocqua

If you’re heading to Wisconsin’s Northwoods this fall—an even better time to visit that summer—check out The Shade Tree, a book and gift store in Minocqua. It has a wonderful selection of new and older titles, plus a fantastic collection of books written by local authors—one of the best I’ve seen. The games, cards, and book-related gifts are excellent, too. (Note: I don’t think the store has a website. A search produces a location in Boulder Junction. The Shade Tree Bookstore I refer to is located at 522 Oneida Street, Minocqua.)



Upcoming Conferences

Fall is a fabulous time to attend a conference. There are a few left for the year. Also, plan ahead for next year.

Sept. 21- Washington Island Literary Festival, Door County

September 28-Oct 1: Central Wisconsin Book Festival, Wausau, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point

Oct. 6-7: Wisconsin Writer’s Association Fall Conference, Brookfield

October 2024: Fox Cities Book Festival, Fox Cities area, HIATUS to 2024

Oct. 19-22: Wisconsin Book Festival, Madison

Book Release: Model Suspect

Finally, I am delighted to announce that my debut mystery, Model Suspect, earned Honorable Mention in the RWA Daphne du Maurier award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense, and another award TBA. The humorous cozy will be released November 14, 2023. For announcements and giveaways, please follow my Instagram, the Backyard Model.

Happy fall, writers! ~ Tracey

T.K. Sheffield, MA

Pre-published author, The Seymour Agency. “I write books for readers who want to laugh and escape.”

Coming in November: The Backyard Model Cozy Mysteries: A retired fashion model uses her skill at spotting posers to solve murders in her touristy Wisconsin town.

Follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest for writing tips, author news, and to share my Wisconsin backyard.


So true- great editing advice!

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