First off, KUDOS to you if you've made it through the intital draft of a novel and are ready to edit. That's a feat in itself. Most people who start a novel never ever finish it. So, stay positive. You're already heading in the right direction.
So far in my journey to publication I have written (and edited) two full length Young Adult novels. The first one was, well, horrible. A complete learning experience. My grammar skills left a lot to be desired, let me tell you. But, hey, putting it out there to beta readers was my very first step in learning to self edit. I didn't even know what a dialog tag was two years ago let alone a beta reader!
When I tried to edit my first novel, I had no clue what I was looking for. Mainly, I just ran through looking for misspelled words and run-on sentences. So, when I got my first red-filled edited version from a beta reader back, I was a little taken back. I had a lot to learn.
Instead of getting mad at the people making the marks, I went back to them and asked them to teach me learn some skills and so I can improve the next time. For this post, I figured I'd share what I learned from the disastrous first novel.
1. Shorter Sentences: Yep. Aim for short concise sentences. Agents even pointed that one out to me. This makes the words flow and people can read it fast.
2. Keep Your Sentences Active: What I mean here is, instead of saying something like..."I watched him stand..." make it "He stood." Again this helps flow.
3. Internal Thought--Make Sure It's There: Another words, just because you know in your mind how you want your character's dialog to be perceived, doesn't mean your reader gets it that way. If your main character says something snippy, but the reader doesn't see some internal reasoning for it, it can turn the reader against your character. You want people to like your characters. To empathize with them. So, make sure they come off the right way.
4. Pacing: Most agents will tell you to start your story with action. To get a good feel for what they mean here, pick up a book from your shelf and read the first couple of pages. More than likely it's an action scene. Don't lead in with backstory, even if it's important. Figure out a different way to work it into the story. Cut scenes that drag the story down. Save them in a file for later, they work somewhere else.
5. Look For Repetition: This can range from overly used words (Look and eyes are some of mine) to repetivie thoughts. I've had my hand smack for saying the same thing eight different ways in just three chapters. The reader will get it the first time, don't beat a dead horse.
6. Forshadowing: Make sure you weave it in throughout the novel. It's imporant. Weather you know it or not, it's one of those things that can keep your reader hungry to finish your novel. So weave in some clues.
7. Stay in the Right Tense: This is a biggie for a lot of people. If you start in present tense or past tense, stay in that tense. Most of all, pick the tense that best suits your writer's voice.
8. Let Your Voice Shine Through: You hear it all the time, voice is everything. If you hear someone talking to you in your head, write it down just like you hear, weather it's snarky or whatever. It's what's calling to you. Be true to it.
9. Establish Your Crisis in the First Quarter of the Book: First off make sure you know your MAJOR crisis. It's really hard to make that the center of your writing when it's not clear to you even. Take a hard look at your plot and make sure you know and can clearly state it.
10. Have Fun With It: Remember why you are writing. The minute it's not fun anymore, is when you stop loving it. It's okay to put a novel back on a shelf and edit it later if you become frustrated. Sometimes a break can give you fresh editing eyes.
Any other tips you wanna share???? We'd love to hear them!