So You Wrote A Book, What The Hell Do You Do Now? (Part 1-Editing)

Updated: Jun 3, 2020

You have your newly written novel in your hands. You are ready to share it with the world. DON'T. But before you do that you have a lot of shit you have to do first.


Jane Friedman's post on blogging.)

So let's start there.

You've finished your book. If your lucky you still have hair left, your husband/wife/significant other didn't leave you and your kids don't hate you.

When I started to write my book, I was all consumed. I still am, but I have learned to balance things, like sitting in front of this computer and typing this damn post. Ah but I digress, that will be another post later in this series.

You wrote your book asking 'what the hell do I do now? Put it on Amazon and sell it?' HELL NO! Step away from the book. Do not show it to anyone. I said in an earlier post, don't do this. You show this draft, which I am sure sucks, then you'll want to show them the second and third. Then one day you'll wake up with no friends. Cause they will hate you.

(Even if you want to publish it yourself, it is not ready. Please don't think it is and put it up on Amazon or another platform.)

Go have sex with your husband or wife, or whoever you want to have sex with. Go have a drink. Go have a drink then have sex. Either way, just don't do anything with it yet. Put it in a drawer. Read. Read other books in your genre. The point here is you need to take a step back and a breather.

Marcy Kennedy in her book on Showing and Telling In Fiction she suggests you step away for three months. I didn't do it for that long, but I did do it for a fair amount of time. (I highly recommend you get all her books. As well as all of Angela Ackerman/Becca Puglisi's check out their website. These books will help you as you edit. They will help with everything from setting, character development, just all things story and writing related. I use these books the most during my writing. There are others, these authors are my favorites.)

You may be sitting there saying I will just pay an editor. That is a great idea. But if you give your first draft to an editor, they will give it back and say fix it. An editor isn't going to write your story for you. They are there to tighten your story. A good editor can make a good story a great story.

Right now, all you have are the bones of a story. They aren't even in any shape. All you have is a big ass bag of bones. So we need to get those into a whole body, with muscle and meat. (Like one of the Australian Rules Football Players, my gosh it must be a requirement to be hot, sexy, and delicious to play in that league. Sorry, sidetracked.) Nevertheless, we want a whole body (of work).

Let's assume some time has passed. You decide it's time to start the editing process. For me, I print out my pages after I have at least run it through spell check and Grammarly. I use Grammarly regularly. It isn't a substitute for a real human, but it does get it cleaned up so you can make sense of what you've written. Which ever you want to do this part is up to you. But I found that working with paper made it easier to re-write a scene, add in new, or move things around. It's your choice.

If you are going to use Marcy Kennedy's Showing and Telling, you will want to use your word program to find all those words she suggests and highlight them before you print out your book. This way you will see those words and you can rewrite those sentences as you do this edit of your MS (manuscript). This book is the best one to start with in my opinion. I did a lot of telling when I first wrote. That was the biggest complaint I got.

In my later edits, I use WordRake and SmartEdit. When I say later edits I mean close to what I send to my editor. WordRake is a proofreading software. Again this doesn't take the place of a trained editor. (You may choose to use these earlier.)

The cool thing about SmartEdit is you can program all those words into it and it will find them and show them in the context of the sentence, in your MS and allow you to change it right there, in the body of work.

The reason I suggest using these in the second or later edits of your work, is your first draft is crap. You need to make some serious changes to it but that will require you to read through it and make human changes first. (Again this is just my opinion. You may find that you want to use these first. Totally whatever floats your boat.) SmartEdit also shows you cliches, adverbs, punctuation and lots of other stuff, check it out for yourself.

SIDE NOTE: During your writing of your book, you should go to a writer's conference or at minimum get in a writers group. You will meet people who can read a few chapters and tell you what your doing wrong and then you can correct it. I did this. After I went to a writers conference, I asked three different editors to review three different chapters each, they did it for free. I got invaluable knowledge. Plus this will also help build up a thick skin. You might as well get used to people telling you what is wrong with your MS now. Learn to take it and not break down into tears.

So you've run it through spell check and a few other things, and you have your MS in front of you. Go through it one chapter at a time. Don't rush. Get some of Angela Ackerman's books on how to show emotion not just tell how they are feeling. Keep Marcy Kennedy's books handy. I have found that my MS is shored up pretty damn quick fixing these issues.

You really need this editing step. This is the first layer to building your completed body of work. This will also be the longest hardest edit. You will pull your hair out, scream at everyone around you, drink endless amounts of coffee, and for me I drank a lot of whiskey during this time. This part of the process will make you question your very existence in life. Okay maybe not that bad, but it is the most painful part of editing, in my opinion.

This type of edit will help you narrow in on your story as well. I often lose a lot of my story during this edit. You have to decide at some point what you want to cut from your story. Right now you have your main character fighting the dragon, saving the girl, and building an entire city on his own. Not going to work. You will need to tighten up what your main character wants to accomplish and what is hindering him from doing it. You may choose not to cut down your story. You may choose to leave it as is, just edit it, then send it to an editor. I promise you she/he will tell you to cut this out/ cut that out and you will be like WHY? Quit bitching and just do it.

Go through each chapter individually. (You can worry about tying them together later.) Chances are you will rearrange/combine chapters during this edit. Remember this is only the first edit. This is where you are building your first layer of your MS. This is the foundation. You get this done and do it well, the rest of the layers will fit nicely on top.

If you choose to half ass this part. Your story will show it. So take your time. Get this right. When you complete this process and you make all the changes from paper into your computer, (you're not going to like this) your going to do it again. BWAA-HA. If you didn't cut any of your story out during your first edit, you should do it during a subsequent edit. However the next round will be much easier. I usually don't reprint my MS after this. I do all my changes on the computer. (I usually don't reprint until I give a copy to my editor.)

Again though, set your MS aside. Take a break from it. The editing process fries your brain. You need to step away and then come back to it. It will help see it more clearly. Remember, don't rush this part. Each editing layer will tighten your story and make it better. You will read your MS between each edit. This is one major reason you need to take a break. Clarity.

I'm going to shoot for doing this series once a week or once every two weeks. I want to go over Editing, Software for writers, Platform (whether to blog or not to blog), Author website setup, Query letters, the dreaded Synopsis and Outlines. My goal is to lay out what I had to figure out on my own. I'm not an expert, but I'm a hell of a lot farther than some writers I know. However, I didn't have anyone giving me a few guidelines to make it easier. I hope I do that for you.

Want to read the second post over editing in this series? Click here.

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I write crime fiction horror, thriller, and paranormal novels. My time in the Coast Guard and my degree in Forensic Chemistry helps me create fantastic stories.

If I'm not writing, I am binge watching Netflix and probably drinking whiskey.

You can find me on Pinterest, Amazon, and Facebook.

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