Tag Archives: 7 edits

Seven Edits Part 7: Visual Balance

Last, but not least! Well, okay, maybe least, but at least last!

Photo by Krypto on Flickr

Once you’ve combed through your work and fixed all the broken parts, and it’s pretty dang awesome, I think it’s good to go through and do an edit to make sure it looks awesome. If you’re submitting your work, the editor and layout designer will do most of this, but it’s good to get it as ready as possible.

Make it look nice on every page. You want a first time flip of the book to catch the reader’s attention and get them interested in the book no matter the page. Specifically:

  1. Make sure you have plenty of paragraph breaks. Make sure the dialogue looks good, and that there aren’t any blocks of text that take up 3/4 of a page. Those just look boring, even in an exciting scene. If there are some ugly pages, try breaking them up.
  2. Make sure there are chapter and section headings (depending on the genre).
  3. Make sure there are enough chapters to give a sense of forward movement without diluting that effect by having a new chapter on every page. A good chapter rule of thumb is to have a chapter per scene.
  4. You can also use a white-space between paragraphs to provide further balance and interest, or if you need more than one scene in one chapter. Just don’t do it regularly, such as every other paragraph, or it will look terribly unprofessional.

If you’re planning on self publishing this book, you’ll want to do a ton more work to get the book ready. Get a fantastic font, give it some flair with little graphics, etc. Remember, you’re giving your readers an experience, not just a story. Think of your book like a restaurant. Sure, the food is what it is regardless of the building, but can you imagine going into a restaurant and it looks like a back warehouse or college classroom? You want to walk into a place and feel the setting. Cool decorations on the wall, just the right color tones, and even subtle background music to set the right mood. Your book is the restaurant for your story. Make it awesome!

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits part 6: Line Edit

Photo by sethoscope on Flickr

Some writers use the line edit for their first revision. I highly recommend saving it until late in the game. If you’re doing it right, there will be so many changes that will take place in the first five revisions that you will have quite a different story by the time you’re ready to do the sixth. With all the work you’ve put into it up to this point, it’s probably pretty smooth, and the worst of the line edit problems will have already taken care of themselves.

Word searches are your best friend on this edit (ctrl-f in Windows and Linux or cmnd-f in Mac).

  1. Do a word search for all your overused, underused, misused, clichéd, and pet words. Do a full spellcheck. Look for qualifier words, like “very,” “so,” and “slightly.” Look for exclamation points. Look for “ly” words. Look for words like, “big,” “little,” “small,” “fast,” “quick,” and any other super common adjectives to see if there are opportunities for metaphor, description, or unique phrasing.
  2. Clean up passive voice (doing some of these word searches will help with that a lot). Look for examples of telling and change most to showing. Find terms like, “I saw,” “He thought,” and “She noticed,” and replace them with the thing seen, thought, or noticed. These are almost always telling.
  3. Do another check for your most common their, there, they’res and too, to, twos. Make a note of the ones most common in your writing. Just be careful with ctrl-f searches to not make “change all”s unless you’re sure it won’t turn all “the queen bees” into “Queen Elizabeth bees” (true story). If you have the slightest question about anything, Google the question. Someone out there has answered it, and they’ve posted it online. If what they say doesn’t sound quite right, check more of the search results to get a consensus. Just bare in mind that “yahoo answers” and such sites aren’t authorities on the subject.
  4. Make sure paragraphs are indented properly.
  5. Make sure chapters have proper page-breaks rather than a bunch of “enters.”
  6. Make sure you have names of places and people capitalized, and species names lowercase.
  7. Run the official spell-checker. Put your place and character’s names in the dictionary to make it less painful—or at least click “skip all,” when it gets to those names.
  8. More often than not, the shorter way to say it is better. Tighten the wording so it doesn’t break flow.
  9. Look for things that pull a reader out of the story. Remember that you want your writing to be invisible. You want the readers to read the whole thing without noticing they’re reading it, because they’re so wrapped up in the story. A wordy sentence, a weird explanation, glitchy dialogue—anything that makes a reader have to read twice to get it (other than flipping back to look for clues they may have ignored) should be ironed out to make it invisible.
  10. Send your book to beta readers. This is the edit they’ll most likely focus on. Still, ask them to tell you if there is anything boring, unbelievable, or confusing—and ask for their favorite parts so you don’t edit those scenes out.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits part 5: Structure Revision

It may seem counterintuitive to do the structure revision this late in the game, but I’m laboring under the assumption that when you started the story, you had at least a rudimentary idea of the structure you’d be working with. If you need to move large chunks around, you’ll usually be able to do it without terribly destroying your story. Plus, doing those other revisions first makes it easier to identify the chief elements of your story.

Also, the structure revision involves a lot of polishing work of individual chapters and scenes.

  1. Hold your book up to the three act Hollywood structure. You can get a lot of detail about the three act structure on Wikipedia. Basically, divide your story into three major parts and make sure the first part (act 1) introduces the characters, major plot elements, and much conflict. In the second act, there should be rising tension and complications to the conflicts introduced in the first act. The third act should contain the climax, where the tension and conflict are the highest, and then resolve the plot and major subplots.
  2. Check your story against the seven point story structure, as Dan Wells’ playlist will teach below. Don’t worry if it doesn’t match up perfectly, just see if there are improvements that can be made without crushing the story. The idea is not to amputate and dismantle your book, but to help you refine elements that could be strengthened and trim parts that don’t fit into the overall structure. Remember, these are guidelines, not rules.
  3. Check each scene: make sure each has a purpose. A scene is a situation in a particular point of view and place at a specific time. When any of those things change (POV, place, or time), it’s probably a new scene. Make each scene it’s own short story, if possible, with it’s own small arc.

If there is a major problem with the structure of your story, you may have to go back and deeply rework it. This kind of discovery is painful, but it doesn’t imply that your story is a lost cause. Go with your gut, and realize that even after all edits, your story won’t be perfect. Often, structure problems can be fixed with a rewrite of the climax or opening scene. If you do have to rewrite a huge chunk, don’t worry, with the character revision you’ve already done, it will go much better this time around.

If bad gets to worse, get a second opinion. Show a trusted writer friend your book and ask what it most needs to become workable. Sometimes a different set of eyes can see things that could make your story work with only a few minor adjustments.

Chances are, this edit will not be as brutal as the previous two edits, and if you make it through this one, you’re story has passed all the “Can this work?” filters, and has already proven that with just a little more work, it will be awesome.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits part 4: Research Revision

After the character revision, this is probably the biggest. Check your facts. Though you don’t need to go overboard, everything, be it contemporary romance, science fiction, alternate history, or fantasy, is researchable to some degree.

Specifically, make sure there is plausibility and believability with:

  1. Laws of physics. Do cars actually do that when they crash? What does it really look like when someone is shot? What happens when it falls from that height? Can a person survive a lake dive from that height? Would he really get knocked out from getting hit by a door like that?
  2. Language. Check the language against the time period. If it’s an alternate universe, make sure there are no trendy modern terms in their speech. If your setting is the future or some other world, that society will probably have it’s own trendy terms. You don’t have to make an entire dictionary (unless you really want to), but you may want to write a few down.
  3. Skills, jobs, and roles. Can ninjas really do that? Would a janitor really have that kind of access? Does the president of the U.S. have that power? Do police really behave that way? Watch carefully for that one. I see it violated all the time in books, and it pulls me out of the story every time–and I know very little about proper police procedures. Someone who knows more may just put down the book for good.) If you’re too shy to call someone in that field, no worries, a good Internet search can probably get you all the info you need. You just might want to verify your findings in two or three different sources if it’s an integral part of your story.
  4. World. Every book uses world building, even if (such as in historical fiction) the rules are already established. Your job is to research those rules. How would that climate in this area effect their efforts to search for the treasure? What is the terrain and foliage like? Keep it consistent and interesting. Can they survive overnight in that weather/temperature? If there isn’t much description, put in little samples throughout the text—not long descriptive paragraphs. Bob picked a fern leaf. “So, where should we go from here?” We now know there are ferns. Get the senses involved. The more you can use the better. Mix senses where possible. The more the reader can see the world in his/her mind, the more they will become wrapped up in the story.
  5. Fantasy rules. You can often make up your own rules in fantasy, just make sure you are consistent and keep your own rules. If there are exceptions, make the exception known (or at LEAST hinted at) before the exception takes place, so the reader doesn’t feel like you’re changing the rules for convenience.
  6. Social expectations. There are all kinds of unwritten rules of conduct that we live by every day, such as rules of proximity, common courtesies, and nonverbal communication. Your character is welcome to act outside of those rules, and if they are from another world, visiting a contemporary setting, they most assuredly will break those rules. The trick with research here is to discover how other people would react to the indiscretion. Researching that kind of stuff can be really fun, because there are a bazillion Youtube videos of people doing things that break social norms, such as ordering strange things at a drive through, eating in inappropriate settings, and saying things that you just don’t say to strangers. Obviously the joke is in the stranger’s reaction, which is good, because that’s the behavior you want to study.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits part 3: Character Revision

This is the first really big revision. It’s also my favorite revision, because this is when I see real depth coming into my story, and I start really rooting for my characters. It’s also when the humor, emotion, and human connection smooths into something really meaningful.

The idea in the character revision is to make sure your characters (especially your protagonist) have interesting, growing, believable personalities with whom readers can easily connect. Chances are, your protagonist at the beginning of your first draft is a different person than when you completed your first draft. Now’s the time to go back and make those two personalities into the same, consistent character.

  1. Decide exactly what each major character’s arc looks like, and make their progression (or digression) consistent with that arc. What did he/she start out as? What does he/she become by the end?
  2. Make sure every major character (good and bad) has strengths, weaknesses, attributes, and flaws. If you’re an outliner, write them down. If you’re a pantser, speak them aloud, and think of instances where the characters flaws, strengths, weaknesses, and attributes were demonstrated in the story. Keep in mind that for every “rule” that your character has for himself, he will have exceptions. Those exceptions may or may not show up in the story, but if you know what they are, that knowledge will inform the story, and the character will come across as dynamic and interesting.
  3. Every character should have his/her own unique voice. Go through and make each dialogue voice consistent with the personality you decide on. Do a word search for common words like, “scared,” or “fast.” Every time they’re used in dialogue, appoint different words for each character. For example, Jane might say, “scared,” but Bob prefers, “frightened” and Mary usually says, “freaked out,” because each personality fits the word they prefer. When you’ve done this with enough words, match each bit of dialogue with the personality of the character. This will do a lot to weed you’re personal style out of characters that are supposed to be quite different than you and each other.
  4. Check each chapter for the emotional energy level of the characters. If there are too many low energy levels, up the tension. If the energy level is too high for too long, insert a few calm moments—really short ones. High emotional energy is especially important in young fiction. If kids don’t experience enough emotional roller coasters, they’ll get bored and leave the park. Keep the emotional reactions consistent with the characters, and decide how each character responds to his/her own emotions. When it comes down to it, emotion is where character shines. Just remember to “show” the emotion, and not just “tell” it.

Ultimately, you want your readers to love the characters. Even antagonists can be lovable to some degree. Think about the best villains you’ve read. Chances are, it’s their character that draws you to them. That said, there should be some things about your protagonist that your readers don’t like. The trick is to present those unlikable characteristics in a way that draws the reader deeper into the story.

If you’re writing nonfiction, this is the draft where you decide the personality of the narrator. Most the time, that’s you, but you need to decide the tone you’ll take throughout this book. Obviously, for different subjects, there will be varying levels of emotional energy, solemnity, and humor. But you need to decide what fits where, and how to portray each new idea, story, or suggestion in a way that will connect emotionally with your reader. As a human being, you’re far too dynamic to fit your entire personality into one book, let alone every chapter. Choose which aspects you’ll focus on. Remember that even in nonfiction, you’re acting, and you want to put on the best show possible. Have you ever watched a really compelling documentary? It’s not the flat words that draw you in. It’s everything else–the images, the music, the narrator, and the over-arching flavor. In writing, you’ve got to capture ‘everything’ else in your voice, descriptions, and emotional energy.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits part 2: The “Shot-gun” Revision

Most of us spend several weeks, months, sometimes years, writing a first draft. That means we’ve so far experienced our story over the course of that time period.

I usually wait a couple weeks after the Fill the Gaps revision to start the shot-gun revision. If I’ve got a number of other projects to work on, I’ll work on those other projects during that time. If it extends to a month or two, that’s perfectly fine.

It’s good to have a break from your rough draft before you start doing revisions. After you’ve been working so long on your book, your brain has been carrying the unwritten backstory for so long that until you’re able to fully switch gears, you are susceptible to miss major holes in your story. Taking a couple weeks off from thinking about your story makes it easier to notice problems when you do get back to it.

After the break, I start the Shot-gun revision. Basically, all I’m doing in this revision, is reading through the book as fast as I can. I try to read the whole thing in a day or two. If you can do it in three hours, that’s even better. I don’t change anything. I don’t stop. I’ll sometimes make quick notes on my phone or on a sticky note, but I don’t fix little problems. I’m looking for big things: a character disappeared, the plot has a huge hole, the climax comes way too early in the book. I’m also trying to get a feel for the reader’s experience, and watching for anything that makes the story not work.

Essentially, I’m stepping back from the painting to make sure the overall composition is working.

I’ve found this to be the most revealing of my revisions. It’s important for me to do it early, because it heavily informs the revisions that come later. It’s also one of the funnest revisions, because I’m basically just reading my story.

If you don’t do this revision yet, I highly recommend it. Since it only takes a day or two, it’s not a huge addition to your list of things to do, but it will be a huge benefit to your revision process.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

Seven Edits Part 1: The “Fill the Gaps” Revision

In an earlier post, I talked about what I call, The Seven Edits of Highly Effective Authors. Basically, it’s the seven revisions I do to ensure I’ve done my best to get my work ready for publication. I’ve had people ask for more detail about each of these revisions, so over the next seven weeks, I’ll touch in more detail on each of these revisions. All seven edits apply to fiction, but most still apply to nonfiction in some way as well.

The first edit, the fill the gaps revision, is sort of an extension of the first draft. And though it sounds simple, its an incredibly valuable tool.

What the first revision allows me to do is focus my first draft on writing without stopping, all the way to the end, no matter how much I get tangled up in the story.

I don’t consider myself fully outliner or fully panster. I think I’d have to call myself a mental outliner. I get all the major elements of the story mapped out in my head before I sit down to write. Once I feel like I have a grasp on the story, I sit down and write as fast and furious as possible. Nanowrimo is perfect for this, because it gives me a tight timeframe with a specific deadline. If it’s not near November, I usually model my schedule after the rules of Nanowrimo. With the first draft, I never let myself stop writing (such as for research, or to double check something from earlier in the draft) for more than about ten minutes a day. The consistent flow has to be there for me.

As I write, I make sure to hit each of the major checkpoints of my story. No matter how detailed my plan, however, there are many times in my first draft when I have to simply write something like, “Have Jimmy do something cool to escape the bad guy,” or, “Give more description of the place.” I’ve found that for me, continuing the flow of writing is crucial as I write the first draft. Then I place an asterisk next to my dummy text so I can easily find it later with a ctrl-f search. If you decide to follow a similar pattern, you can use any typographic character you want, but I recommend picking only one character (instead of various characters for different purposes), so you don’t miss anything later.

I once had an author coming to me for help, because she was stuck at a certain scene in her first draft. I suggested she write herself a note, and then finish the draft before coming back to it. She responded, “That’s a good idea, but my mind works so consecutively, I can’t get my mind comfortable writing, ‘fix this,’ and then moving on with a gap in my story.”

I asked her what was happening in her story, and she explained that her protagonist was trapped in a castle, but she didn’t know how to get her out of the castle so she could pick up where her outline continues.

“Just write something quick that keeps you writing in consecutive order,” I suggested, “but without all the detail, such as, ‘Then she found a secret door behind a bookshelf and it led her out of the castle, through a cave, and into the forest just beyond the walls of the city.’ Then make a marking to come back to it later and continue your story to the end. You can fix the scene after you finish your first draft.”

She brightened, and smiled. “I think that just might work!” And she was suddenly excited to write again.

It’s perfectly acceptable to have sentences in your first draft that say, “I don’t know what to write here, and this whole scene is stupid. Our hero suddenly finds herself in a totally different situation, and we continue with her at that point.”

The point of a first draft is to write to the finish.

With the first revision, however, you go back through and fix all those spots. There’s something about finishing a first draft (albeit a horrid, broken first draft) that fuels the creative juices. Suddenly those sticky or blank spots aren’t so hard to fill up. Plus you know what’s going to happen later, and you can throw in precursors and character development in with your patches that will help the reader as they progress in the story.

See all 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.

The Seven Edits of Highly Effective Authors

(Let’s hope the Covey’s don’t sue)

One lesson I’m quickly learning as an author is the importance of learning to love the revision process. It’s such a big part of being a writer that if you don’t love it, it’s a tough career. But if you can learn to love revision, you’re going to have a blast.

For me it helps to follow a little formula. In an effort to make my revision process manageable, so I never feel like I’m biting off more than I can chew at a given time, I’ve come up with a set of seven revisions, which, if I follow them strictly, should get my book awesome. Sure, it means I’ve got to edit my book seven times, but by the time it’s ready, I’ll probably have edited it more than that anyway, right? Plus, when I follow the revisions in this order, I don’t end up correcting a bunch of grammar in a scene that will just be removed anyway.

So here they are:

1. Fill the Gaps Edit

As you were writing, you knew of places you would have to come back and fix or fill in. Fix those. Remember those places you wrote, “Bob says something really cool here that I can’t think of.” Yeah, fix those, too.

2. Shot-Gun Edit

Read straight through without stopping. You can keep a notebook handy for broad notes, but don’t note misspelled words or miss-formatted paragraphs. You’re looking for major plot holes, character inconsistencies, and overall character arc.

3. Character Edit

Chances are, your characters changed personality during the writing of your story. Now’s the time to decide exactly what each character is like and how they behave. Go through and make each consistent with the personality you decide on. Also decide exactly what each character’s arc looks like, and make their progression (or digression) consistent with that arc. Make sure every character (good and bad) has strengths, weaknesses, attributes, and flaws. Every character should have his/her own unique voice. Do a word search for common words like, “scared,” or “fast.” Every time they’re used in dialogue, appoint different words for each character. For example, Jane might say, “scared,” but Bob prefers, “frightened” and Mary usually says, “freaked out,” because each personality fits the word they prefer. When you do this with enough words, you’ll start to notice when a character’s actions don’t coincide with her personality, so those problems also become easier to fix.

4. Research Edit

Check your facts. Do police really behave that way? (And few books get police right.) Do cars actually do that when they crash? Is that word unique to 21st century American language even though my book is set in the 18th century? How would the climate in this area effect their efforts to search for the treasure? Though you don’t need to go overboard, everything, be it contemporary, romance, or fantasy, is researchable to some degree.

5. Structure Edit

Hold your story up to the 3-act Hollywood structure and the seven point story structure. Check each scene: make sure each has a purpose. A scene is a situation in a particular point of view and place at a specific time. When any of those things change (POV, place, or time), it’s probably a new scene. Consider each scene a short story, with it’s own small arc. You don’t have to follow any of these structures to the letter, but keeping them in mind will help you develop a strong structure that your readers will unconsciously grab onto.

6. Line Edit

Word searches are your best friend on this edit (ctrl-f in Windows and Linux or cmnd-f in Mac) Do a word search for all your overused, underused, misused, clichéd, and pet words. Do a full spellcheck. Look for qualifier words, like “very,” “so,” and “slightly.” Look for exclamation points. Look for “ly” words. Look for words like, “big,” “little,” “small,” “fast,” “quick,” and any other super common adjectives to see if there are opportunities for metaphor, description, or unique phrasing. Clean up passive voice (doing some of these word searches will help with that a lot). Look for examples of telling and change most to showing. Find terms like, “I saw,” “He thought,” and “She noticed,” and replace them with the thing seen, thought, or noticed. These are almost always telling. Do another check for your most common their, there, they’res and too, to, twos. Make a note of the ones most common in your writing. Just be careful with ctrl-f searches to not make “change all”s unless you’re sure it won’t turn all “the queen bees” into “Queen Elizabeth bees” (true story). Make sure paragraphs are indented properly. Make sure chapters have proper page-breaks rather than a bunch of “enters.” Make sure you have names of places and people capitalized, and species names lowercase. Most of all, just read through the book from the beginning and make sure it’s all good!

7. Visual Balance Edit

Make it look nice on every page. You want a reader’s first time flip of the book to catch his attention and get him interested in the book no matter the page. Make sure you have plenty of paragraph breaks. Make sure there are chapter and section headings to keep things looking interesting. Make sure there are enough chapters to give a sense of forward movement without diluting that effect by having a new chapter on every page. A good chapter rule of thumb is to have a chapter per scene. You can also use an occasional white-space between paragraphs to provide further balance and interest, or if you need more than one scene in one chapter.

See more detail about each of the 7 Edits

About Chas Hathaway

Chas is an author, musician, husband, dad, and X-grave digger. He's always enjoyed writing. He started keeping a daily journal when he was 13, and that started a pattern of regular writing that has continued to this day.

His first book, Giraffe Tracks, a memoir of his missionary experiences in South Africa, was published in 2010, and in July 2011, Cedar Fort published his book, Marriage is Ordained of God, but WHO Came Up with DATING?!

Chas has been playing piano since 1994, and actively writing New Age piano compositions since 1996. He has long felt that the greatest factor in the influence of a piece of music is the intent of its author. He has also written numerous LDS Hymn arrangements, many of which are available in sheet music, including the favorite hymns, If You Could Hie to Kolob and Come Thou Fount.

So far, Chas has 4 albums out:

Tune My Heart, Released 2012
Anthem of Hope, 2010
The Ancestor, 2009
Dayspring, 2007

While music and writing are his most time-consuming work, he also enjoys gardening, inventing games, and most of all, spending time with his beautiful wife and adorable little kids.