Twelve Tips for Editing Your Manuscript by Karri Thompson
Completing the second round of edits for MIRROR X took me 6 to 8 hours a day for two and a half weeks. Whew! Below is a list of suggestions from my editor that helped me through the entire process. When I wrote the sequel, ASCENDANCY, I kept these things in mind, and the edits went much faster because there wasn’t as much for me to change. These tips will work for pretty much any novel. Good luck. And remember that revisions are sometimes harder than writing the first draft of the book.
Make sure your characters’ emotional reactions don’t become lost in the physical details. Constantly ask yourself how your characters are feeling and add these emotions and reactions.
Don’t let your character’s voice become hidden behind all of the dialogue. The reader wants to see the characters’ world through the eyes of the characters and outside of their conversations. Make sure things are not just “explained” to your main character. Your main character needs to figure things out on his or her own.
Don’t let a character’s dialogue run over multiple paragraphs. My editor’s rule is that a piece of uninterrupted dialogue should not be longer than one paragraph. It’s okay to interrupt a character’s dialogue with reactions, movement, actions, etc. in order to prevent this issue.
Watch out for info dumps. As you go through each scene, ask yourself if a piece of action or dialogue moves the plot forward. If it doesn’t – cut it. I know it’s hard to do especially if it’s full of clever wording, but if it slows down the plot – get rid of it. The last thing you want to do is bore your reader with you might think are fun facts or information you think they need to know, when in reality, they can make the connections for themselves. Your readers are smarter than you think and don’t need everything explained to them. They can make the deductions on their own.
Watch your chapter length. There isn’t a specific rule when it comes to chapter page count, but if some of your chapter are over 20 pages, and others are less than 5, then some chapter combining and breaking up of others might be in order.
Don’t forget time markers, so your reader knows how much time has passed. As I read through, I have a notepad next to me and I list the day of the week and time of day with a page number. Every time I come to a time marker. Then I can check to see if my timeline is right.
Begin every chapter with some kind of action and end with a cliffhanger, so your reader will want to turn the page.
Watch out for plot holes. Does it make sense? Are you missing a piece of the puzzle? During the second round of edits for MIRROR X, my editor noticed that I didn’t explain why they couldn’t just keep replicating the same DNA. I found a reason and filled the hole.
Make sure your main character has flaws. Your character won’t be relatable if he or she is perfect, since no one is perfect.
I’ve heard this one at conferences. Make sure your character isn’t crying all the time. It gets old. Yes, your character should have flaws, but one of them does not need to be that he or she is sobbing all over the place.
Make sure that your main character is making most of the decisions, especially if it’s a female. Give her some agency. Let her take control and not have a man decide everything for her.
In his novel, On Writing: A Memoir on the Craft, Stephen King argues that: “The adverb is not your friend.” I get his point, but there’s nothing wrong with using them sparingly. It’s impossible not to use them. In fact, my editor added some.
Good luck. I hope these tips will help.
Growing up in San Diego, California, Karri Thompson spent much of her years at the beach, reading novels,tanning,and listening to hard rock. At SDSU, she majored in English with the goal of becoming an author. Once she became a wife, mother, and high-school English teacher, her dream came true, and all of the plots and characters in her head finally found a home. Victorian literature rocks her socks, and when she's not writing, she's reading Dickens.
I was born more than a thousand years ago.
Put into a cryogenic tube at age seventeen, forgotten during a holocaust that decimated the world, I've finally been awakened to a more serene and peaceful future.
But things at the hospital are new and strange. And it's starting to scare me.
Everyone is young. Everyone is banded and tracked. And everyone is keeping secrets.
The cute geneticist Michael Bennett might be the only good thing in this crazy new world where "life is precious" but no one seems free to live it. The problem is, I don't think he's being totally honest with me, either.
When I'm told only I can save the human race from extinction, it's clear my freeze didn't avoid a dreadful fate. It only delayed the horror…
I’ll never let them control me...
I’ve been lied to, deceived, and manipulated—again. You’d think I’d be treated with dignity and respect. I’m the one who’s supposed to save humanity, right? I’m the one with the power to re-populate this dying world. But the clones want to control me, force me to give birth over and over again. And my daughters will face the same fate—unless I change it.
My awakening into this future should have been a chance for a new life, but it just promises a living death. With Michael on my side, though, maybe I can save us. He’s the only person I can trust.
I hear rumors of others... A secret society is growing. Tension is building.
A rebellion is imminent.