10 Writing Lessons I Learned While Creating Self-Editing Success
Disclaimer: Hey, guys! The course mentioned in this article is no longer available for purchase , so I've disconnected all of the links. That said, the tips I've included here are still super applicable. Read on to check 'em out!
Hey, friends. Long time, no see!
It's been just over a year since I launched She's Novel, and in all that time I don't think I've ever been away from the blog for so long. Three weeks, y'all. How crazy is that? I can't begin to tell you how much I've missed it.
But where have I been? In full-blown creation mode, that's where!
As many of you know, my first full-length e-course–Self-Editing Success–launched for pre-sale last weekend (hurray!). Since that time, I've spent every waking hour creating content for the course.
With 6 modules, over 35 videos, and countless worksheets, I've hardly had a moment to spare. But today, I'm back! And so I thought I'd get a bit more personal than usual here on the blog and share with you 10 different writing lessons I learned during the creation of my Self-Editing Success e-course.
You see, I didn't just take the information in my head and slap it onto a bunch of slides to create the course. I spent months researching different editing topics, analyzing bestselling novels, and chatting it up with you lovely readers to make sure I included everything you need to know in order to revise your manuscript for success.
And along the way, I learned so much about writing for myself. New techniques, truths about the editing process, and mistakes and myths that far too many writers believe. Today, I want to share all of those things with you so we can both continue to grow as writers.
So let's get started!
What I learned about the Writing Process:
In the process of creating Self-Editing Success, I actually learned three new techniques for completing productive edits and holding yourself accountable. Let's talk about that.
1. The Two Approaches to Editing. From the planners vs pantsers debate alone, it's painfully obvious that there is no right way to write a novel. Even if they follow certain patterns, every writer has their own unique process for bringing their stories to life.
One thing that never occurred to me though? That some authors don't edit their manuscripts linearly!
My experience with editing has always been to start at chapter one and work my way through the entire manuscript, making changes to either the story or the writing itself depending on my current draft. This was a lengthy process of course, often taking me six months or more, but it was always worth it in the end.
But while chatting it up with some writers on Twitter back, I was surprised to learn that not all writers edit in such long drafts. Some choose to focus on a single issue at a time (e.g. fixing plot holes or eradicating flowery language) and jump around to make those edits happen.
As such, they end up completing a dozen drafts throughout the editing process, but each draft takes far less time to complete (think: anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks).
After learning this, I knew I needed to do a bit more research. What I discovered ended up becoming its very own lesson in the foundation module of my course: The Two Approaches to Editing.
I like to call these two approaches "working big" and "working small", and in Self-Editing Success, I encourage each of my students to figure out which method they prefer so they can build their best game plan for completing their manuscript.
2. The Five C's of Copy Editing. Has anyone ever asked you a question that you knew the answer to but had no clue how to actually verbalize? Maybe you even tried to answer that question and ended up bumbling like an idiot.
Trust me. I've been there too, and that was one thing I did not want to happen to me as I launched Self-Editing Success.
You see, copy editing is one of those "questions" for me. I know how to complete my own copy edits (I've done it countless times for school papers, blog posts, works of fiction, and more), but when it came time to outline a lesson on copy editing techniques for the course, I didn't have a clue where to begin.
And so I got to work, researching craft books and online articles to see if anyone could do a better job of verbalizing copy editing techniques than I could. Sure enough, I found plenty of great information to help me put my thoughts into words.
This included the 5 C's of copy editing, a simple memory trick to help you focus on what to look for when completing copy edits. Allow me to explain:
Every line and passage in your manuscript needs to fulfill these five items if you want to prepare your novel for publishing. With that in mind, remembering these 5 C's can go a long way towards helping you finally complete your book. Pretty great, right?
3. The Importance of Publicizing Your Progress. Writing a novel is hard work. Editing it? Even harder.
To make solid progress, you need to hold yourself accountable to your work. There are a lot of techniques you can use to do this (e.g. setting daily goals, assigning rewards for progress achieved, etc.), but one new technique I learned during the process of creating my course was to take your progress and publicize it to an interested audience.
This could mean telling your family and friends or sharing your work on social media. In either case, the more public you make your progress, the more accountable you'll be to completing your goals.
This is something I've just begun to incorporate into my fiction writing process, but as soon as I learned about this technique, I applied it to the creation of Self-Editing Success.
When working on a large project, it's difficult to actually get to work because of the overwhelm that comes with all of the tasks you need to complete. Publicizing the progress I made with the course helped me wake up every morning and get right to work because I knew readers were counting on me to finish it.
Understanding the Importance of Revisions
As I created Self-Editing Success, I also learned a few new editing truths and came to understand the importance of certain elements of the revision process. Check it out!
4. The Importance of Purpose. Here at She's Novel, I have always said that the best way to accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams is to work with purpose. I've also said that making sure every element in your novel serves a strong purpose is so important if you want to build a novel with bestselling potential.
But it wasn't until I finished outlining Self-Editing Success that I realized just how important purpose was.
One thing I didn't want to do with this course was simply tell students what to do. I wanted to make sure they understood why it was important for them to complete each editing task.
So every time I outlined a new lesson, I thought about why it was important for the tasks in that lesson to be completed. And the answer almost always seemed to involve giving that story element purpose, strengthening its reason for being in the novel.
I'm now convinced that the best question you could ask yourself as you edit is, "What purpose does this line/character/plot point/etc. serve?". It's already done wonders for transforming my manuscript as I've dug into the third draft of The Dark Between.
5. The Importance of Structure. Another item I learned the importance of was structure.
I wanted to make sure I understood writers' struggles when I created the course, so I sent out a little poll asking writers to share the biggest problem they encountered when editing their first drafts. The most popular answer?
"My plot is all over the place."
This is obviously a big problem, and one I certainly wanted to address in the course.
The simple answer is that the best way to avoid a sloppy plot is to give it structure, but many writers resist the idea of plot structures. They think it takes away from the magic of the creative process. And for some, maybe it does. But a bad story is still a bad story, no matter how you wrote it.
The best way to fix a bad story, specifically one that stems from a poor plot? Give it structure!
6. The Importance of an Ideal Reader. The importance of knowing your ideal reader is another item that dawned on me as I created the course.
If you don't know who your ideal reader is, you won't be able to give them a novel they'll fall in love with. But if you figure out exactly who you want your novel to appeal to--even if that person is someone very much like yourself--you'll have a much better chance of creating a novel that will achieve bestselling success.
Not sure who your ideal reader is? Here are a few basic questions to consider:
• What is their age and gender?
• What are their favorite movies, tv shows, and books?
• Where do they hang out online?
• What are their interests?
• Why would they want to read my novel?
Want to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your ideal reader? Here's a link just for you!
7. The Importance of Constructive Criticism. Constructive criticism. Made you cringe, didn't I?
No one likes to be critiqued. It's uncomfortable. You want to believe that the work you've done is perfect and wonderful and amazing, but you know it's not. The idea that someone else is reading that with the intent to give you criticism is terrifying.
But constructive criticism (emphasis on constructive) is so important for writers. Getting an outside opinion on your novel can not only help you improve your manuscript, but it can ensure you become a better writer in the process.
This is something I realized as I worked through outlining and creating the second module of Self-Editing Success, Utilizing Constructive Criticism. Everyone knows that they should work with a critique partner, beta reader, or professional editor at some point, but the why is a bit more fuzzy.
The simple truth? Constructive criticism forces you to take a look at your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and reflect on how you can improve. And if you act on what you learn, you are sure to take your writing to all new levels of greatness.
Three Things I Learned About Writers' Mindsets
One of the things I was surprised to learn as I created Self-Editing Success was that so many writers believed crazy myths about the editing process. Here are three that stuck out:
8. The First Draft is the Biggest Struggle. Okay, this item isn't actually a myth. Rather, it's a mindset that I didn't expect to encounter.
For many writers, they don't struggle with the editing process simply because they haven't gotten there yet. I can't even begin to tell you how many people emailed me to say they were interested in my course but that they still needed to finish writing their first draft.
I had no idea so many of my readers (including yourself, perhaps?) struggled more with getting their stories down on paper than in turning those stories into something they could actually publish, so I'm very excited to spend the coming months creating the resources they need to finally reach the editing process.
9. You Don't Need to Edit Your Manuscript. Okay, this is definitely a myth I encountered as I introduced Self-Editing Success to my lovely email subscribers.
Several writers replied to say they had no idea they needed to edit their novel after they'd written the first draft. They thought if they took their time when drafting their novel, it would be good enough for them to move right on to publishing.
Good enough. That phrase popped up time and time again.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to write a "good enough" novel. I want to write a spectacular novel, a novel with bestselling appeal. That's why I don't hesitate when readers ask me when my current WIPs will be published.
The answer? 2017, at the earliest.
Writers can certainly crank out a book a year, even several books. Just look at Stephen King for proof that that process doesn't automatically rule you out from finding success.
But that isn't my process. I need more time to edit my novels. And if you aren't comfortable with that process either, you don't need to adopt it. In fact, I'd far rather you publish a quality book every five years than skip the editing process so you can keep on pumping out new novels.
Quality over quantity any day, folks. And quality means taking the time to revise your novel.
10. A Friend's Read-Through is Good Enough. Another common editing myth that many writers believe? Having a friend read and approve of your manuscript means it's good enough to be published.
Ahhh! Please don't believe this, lovely writer.
Unless your friend is a professional editor, having them provide you with a bit of constructive criticism is not enough. Even on the off chance that they represent your ideal reader, you still need someone with a strong understanding of fiction and the publishing world to give you feedback if you want to give your novel its best chance at success.
That's why I recommend you always work with a professional editor. Scary, I know. But it doesn't have to be.
If you nab a deal with a publishing house, they'll be the one to provide you with an editor. But if you self-publish, you'll need to hire an editor for yourself. Thankfully, this doesn't have to be difficult (or terribly expensive) in today's day and age, especially if you self-edited your manuscript first.
Have no idea how to revise your novel for self-editing success? Well, I've got just the course for you, friend.
I hope you enjoyed this inside peak at my new e-course, Self-Editing Success, and the lessons I learned from its creation. Have any questions about these lessons or the course itself? You know where to find me. Hint: in the comments below, yo.
Happy editing, rockstar!