How I Am Editing My First Novel

This week marks the beginning of the editing process for the first draft of my first novel, The Cogsmith’s Daughter. I have already explained my inspiration behind the novel, as well as how I plotted and wrote the first draft. In this post, I am going to share my strategy for approaching the editing. I will let you know how successful I find it in a future post.


Actual edits on my manuscript

Step One: Print the manuscript

I do my best planning by writing by hand in a physical journal. Likewise, I do my best editing with physical paper and a red pen. I know plenty of writers who are just fine editing in the same word processing document in which they wrote their manuscript. However, at least for this first novel, I want to edit in the form I am most familiar. For me, it is easier to edit when I can see all the pages in front of me and write on them freely.

Step Two: Do it one chapter at a time

To keep myself from becoming overwhelmed, I will be printing my manuscript one chapter at a time. Likewise, I will be editing it one chapter at a time. In each individual chapter, I will look for several elements: sentence structure, dialogue, plot advancement, character development, etc. Basically, without going into the nitty-gritty, I will make sure each chapter is well-constructed, important to the overall story, and entertaining to the reader.

Step Three: Look at sections together

To me, my novel has clear “phases” in the overall journey. Therefore, at the end of each phase, I will make sure that the information is consistent, the plot is advancing at the proper pace, and the characters are growing as they should. I am hoping that this thoroughness will help me ensure that the development of my story is solid and allow me to avoid the cost of a developmental editor.

Step Four: Review the entire manuscript

Once all the chapters have been printed and edited, I will lay out my manuscript and consider it as a whole. Does the story flow properly? Are all necessary questions answered? Are my details consistent?

desert plantStep Five: Research specific details

Because I wrote my novel during NaNoWriMo, I allowed myself to skip on research. For example, my novel takes place in a desert landscape. My characters mention specific foods that they eat; however, I honestly don’t know if it would be possible to grow these foods in a desert (or even in a greenhouse in the desert). Therefore, I will be taking the time to research and adjust details like these as necessary.

Step Six: Type up the changes

Once I have run my red pen out of ink and researched my “minor” details, I will make the changes in the Scrivener documents. By waiting to type out my changes until the end, I hope to keep myself from having to go back into the early chapters and revise a second or third time. Likewise, this allows me another full look through my manuscript and provides a good opportunity to do more thorough proofreading.

Step Seven: Seek outside help

If I stick with the above-mentioned process, I think I will have done about all I can do for the first go-round. At this point, I will hire a professional editor and send my manuscript out to a handful of beta readers. Hopefully, these individuals will catch what I have missed and help me whip my manuscript into a final, publishable shape.

The idea of editing my manuscript makes me really nervous. I am terrified that when I look at the words I’ve written, I will realize that my NaNoWriMo writing frenzy resulted in a ginormous pile of trash. However, I keep trying to reassure myself. In university, I always felt this way when I went to edit a first draft, and the process was never as arduous as I expected. Plus, as I’ve written before, IT’S OKAY if my first draft sucks. Heck, I hope my first draft sucks, or I am planning to waste the next few weeks of my life by editing it.

Regardless, the time has come. I have taken a month off from The Cogsmith’s Daughter, and now I must edit it. Hopefully it goes smoothly and I have enough time leftover to work on my second novel. Either way, wish me luck!

What are the steps in your editing process? Do you have any tips to make this journey go smoothly for me? I’d love any help you have to offer!

Unrelated, I hit the 250 total followers mark yesterday! Thank you all so much for your continued support and engagement! It means so much to me!


Kate M. Colby is an author of science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction. When she is not writing or working, Kate enjoys playing video games, antiquing, and wine tasting. She lives in the United States with her husband and furry children.

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Posted in The Desertera Series, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Updates
19 comments on “How I Am Editing My First Novel
  1. Jonas Lee says:

    Editing is like punishing your children, it hurts but also makes them better. Just don’t over-punish them. I got to a point where I thought everything was terrible and didn’t deserve the fire it took to ignite the paper. Just know that each new look makes you a better writer.

    Printing them out is a great idea. I also read mine aloud in order to hear my reader’s voice better. If I stumble while reading, so will my reader’s attention.

    No editing is foolproof. Little things will get by. Just have a great concept for your characters and the rest generally falls into place.

    Congrats on the 250!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for your advice and encouragement, Jonas! So far, I’m actually feeling pretty good about my manuscript (which, of course, makes me worry even more). However, I’m just trying to remember my university creative writing training and do the best I can. I can only catch so much, which is where beta readers and a professional editor comes in!

      My main goal is to smooth things out to where I do not need a developmental editor and can get by with only a line editor and proofreader. But we’ll see how it goes!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. coffeennotes says:

    I love this post so much as I will be where you’re at, lol. I am currently finishing my first draft and finishing the small details I missed while NanoWrimo. Your editing style is very similar to mine in the sense of editing each chapter by its own. For me after I will finish my editing, my hubby will edit it again, lol, from there it’s time for a professional editor and then the beta readers. I am sure that your manuscript will be a great read, just take thing slow and you’ll do great.
    Ohhhh and congrats on the 250 followers that is so awesome ❤
    Sorry for the long comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Congratulations and good luck Kate. I find I need outside help for the editing stage and need it before the draft becomes too settled – otherwise I don’t want to change anything – so feedback at first/second draft is good for me. I am lucky to have a peer group of writers and we give each other critical feedback as I can’t afford a professional editor at this stage in my career. I am writing a series, so it is good that I can garner feedback from the same critical readers for all the novels. Do you fancy doing a ‘blog tour’ with me, where we would be interviewed on each other’s blogs? I might try and get some other writers interested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for sharing about your editing process! A critique group would be a great asset and is one of the biggest things I miss about being in creative writing classes. Given your and Jonas’s mention of them, I may need to search around for one near me (or an online one).

      I would absolutely love to do a blog tour with you! I have never been part of one before, but I think it sounds like a lot of fun and a great networking opportunity.

      Feel free to send me an email via the contact form on my guest post policy page, and let’s work it out! If you like, I can try to help drum up some of my WordPress writer contacts, as well.


  4. Kara Jorgensen says:

    I’m currently editing my second novel and am nine chapters into it. I do the same thing you do (print and do all edits by hand, then type it up and start again). It’s a long, daunting progress, but it is great to watch your work come to life and improve.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lightwalker1 says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips they make a lot of sense. I expect they help to avoid being overwhelmed by the whole process, provide an opportunity to keep everything fresh.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Because there are about a gazillion definitions of “editing,” let me tell you exactly what I have been doing. Basically, I am reading the chapters one by one and looking for several areas to fix. At the highest level, I am tracking the pace of my novel and the plot structure. At the middle level, I am ensuring that my character descriptions, character personalities, setting descriptions, and world rules are consistent. At the lowest level, I am re-structuring confusing sentences, fixing poor word choice, and correcting any typos I happen to notice. For more details, you can see my full editing plan here. […]


  7. […] Edited — 1 (First Draft: The Cogsmith’s Daughter, Desertera […]


  8. […] and foremost, in case you missed the memo on Facebook and Twitter, I have finished the red pen edits of The Cogsmith’s Daughter! I am now typing up the revisions and putting the second […]


  9. […] Drafts Revised — I have revised 7 chapters (about 1/3) of The Cogsmith’s Daughter, which puts me behind my intended schedule and stuck in step six of my editing process. […]


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