Editing your Manuscript

Today I attended a writer’s workshop at the local library. The meeting was led by Author Kathy Stewart from AUTHORS’ ALLY, http://www.authorsally.com/  Authors Ally is a editing, proofreading, and manuscript appraisal service. The workshop covered how to edit your manuscript, and offered valuable advice. I left the workshop equipped with more knowledge and couldn’t wait to get home and put the advice to the test on my own manuscript. imageSo you have finished your first draft, and you are left with the question of what now? I don’t know about you, but I feel overwhelmed with the editing process. So I thought I’d share my notes with you all.

  • First of all once your first draft is finished, put it away for awhile, (a week if you can help yourself).
  • Read it out loud: this way you can get an idea of the flow of the story, try not to rush to fix mistakes, just read it first. Highlight areas you notice may need correcting, and once you have read it, go back and edit.
  1. Draw up an outline, a timeline and maps. (Unless you do this beforehand.)


  • Who is the POV character in each scene?
  • Where is the scene set? Some scenes may be too similar or repetitive. For example the scene of a main character sitting and thinking might of been overused, try adding action or changing the setting.
  • What action takes place?
  • What conflict takes place? Is there conflict and tension? Keep up the suspense.
  • Does the scene advance or inhibit the protagonist’s ambition? (Main character, the hero)
  • Does the scene advance or inhibit the antagonist’s (opposing character) purpose?


  • Timelines are very important in keeping dates and times accurate and consistent throughout the novel.
  • There are a few methods to drawing up timelines-Dot form-this way you can easily slot in notes at different times. Or simply draw a line and add times to it or a calendar (You can find calendar’s of the dates in history online).


  • Draw up floor plans of houses, buildings, units.
  • Use actual maps: try Google maps. You can use real places with fictional names.
  • A great tip is to use places you know well, houses, units, buildings, etc.
  1. Characters
  • Use a folder for each character
  • Describe characters appearance, hair colour, eye colour.
  • List hobbies, childhood experiences, traits, likes, dislike.
  • Each character, particularly main characters need to go through a personal revolution, they need to be challenged.
  • Everything should relate to characters and what they are trying to achieve.
  • Characters can have flaws.
  • Give your characters an agenda or reasoning behind their behaviour-childhood or past experiences.
  • Your characters should be LARGER THAN LIFE…in some way, shape or form. They don’t have to be loud or obnoxious, but need to have a slightly eccentric character trait. We don’t want boring characters.
  • Give your characters a voice-have them say or do things which you wouldn’t.
  • You can define a character by giving them a unique gesture. For example, always whistles when nervous, screws her face up when annoyed.
  1. The story
  • Conflict- we need conflict, it is the driving force in any story.
  • The main character needs to want something desperately.
  • Ensure your reader has concern for the main character and wants the protagonist to achieve their goal.
  • Show, don’t tell. Show your characters hopes and dreams and conflict and how it changes throughout the story. Use emotions, body language and gestures to show your readers, rather then tell.
  • Keep it alive through unanswered questions.
  1. Editing tips
  • Does your scene feature all 5 senses? Hear, see, smell, touch, taste.
  • Do you have plenty of action and conflict?
  • Look adjectives: any words which end with LY highlight LY and edit. If there is 2-3 adjectives in one sentence cut it back to 1.
  • Look for words was, were, what and to change from passive to active voice.
  • Words ending in-ing
  • Cut speech tags like ‘he said,’ use actions to convey instead.
  • Don’t repeat any dialogue
  1. Some words to cut

About, almost, appears, basically, even, eventually, finally, oh, no, really, seems, somewhat, truly, were, was, well.    


2 thoughts on “Editing your Manuscript

  1. Yes Sharon, some really helpful tips! I got so much from the workshop I just had to share it. I agree editing is hard work. Not the fun part of the writing process that’s for sure.


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