5 Ways to Force Yourself to Edit Your Novel

This bodes ill for the cmopeutrs and lpaotps

So you’ve written that rough draft.


Now what?


For one thing, it’s probably chock full of errors, plot holes, character inconsistencies and plenty of other grammatical problems.  I’m sure if you begin to read through it you will see them, glaring out from the page like the misshapen and malformed creatures from a nightmare.


However, you just finished writing it, or maybe you just finished NaNoWriMo, and you are just plain tired.  Maybe you have a day job like me and life (and your job) have taken away any time that you had planned to spend editing.  Friend, I’m in the same boat.  Here are 5 ways you can kick start that editing session.


  1. Find Your Happy Place – Life is busy, I know.  However, what I usually do is schedule some time at the local university library.  The city library is too (shall I say it) noisy for me.  I can find a nice quiet place without any distractions at Bizzell Library at the University of Oklahoma.  What is a place you can go where you will not be distracted at all.  Don’t say the coffee house or a bedroom in your home.  These places will soon draw you away from the task you have set for yourself.
  2. No Internet/Devices – Turn off your phone and disconnect the internet from your laptop.  These are distractions that will cause you to waste precious time.  Set your phone on vibrate and only answer the phone for important calls from family.
  3. Give Yourself Some Time – Make sure to start the editing process at least two weeks after you finish the rough draft.  This way you will not be so close to the text.  It will give you some perspective and help you to focus on the task at hand.
  4. Read As If You Didn’t Write It – When editing, try to remove yourself from the characters as much as possible.  Look at the text with fresh eyes, reading first for grammar, second for inconsistencies, and third for character interaction and plot holes.  Make lists of whenever you mention descriptions of characters (eye color, shirt, time of day, day of the week, etc.)
  5. Reward Yourself – When you work on the novel for about two or three hours straight then you should take a much needed break.  Hop up for a cup of coffee or a nutritious snack.  Stay away from sugar as it will make you sleepy after the rush.  It is tough to read a computer screen the more sugar you eat.  It just makes you more tired.  After you finish your editing session and you have completed a huge section of it, see a movie or go shopping or do something just for you.  This will be encouragement to edit the book further at another time.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

4 thoughts on “5 Ways to Force Yourself to Edit Your Novel

  1. For me it’s essential to actually print it out, take it to my favourite reading chair, put my feet up and try to read it like a book (with a red pen in hand to mark any problems!) I see things much more clearly that way. I think my brain must go into “reading” mode instead of “writing” mode and it expects to be reading a “good book,” but instead it gets my first draft, and the problems just leap out at me.

    1. I may just try this with my new novel. As an English teacher, I might actually do a better job of editing if I can see it printed…just like my student’s stuff. Thanks!

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