Love, Hate, Indifferent, Lost: A Strategy for Novel Editing


Developmental or big picture editing can be very challenging. In this video I go over a technique that works well for many writers and that can help you gain perspective and start to develop a plan for revisions.


[00:43] Three main challenges for writers when it comes to big picture (developmental) editing:
1. Getting distracted by smaller elements or details.
2. Getting overwhelmed with how much there is to do.
3. Losing perspective or not being able to see the big picture.

[03:44] Editing Strategy: Make three columns (love, hate, indifferent) and categorize all of the major elements of your novel into these categories based on how you feel about them.

[05:19] Major Elements to Include:
• Major plot points (up to ten)
• Major characters
• Side characters (that are in at least two or three scenes)
• Theme
• Backstory
• Character arc
• Significant concepts
• Significant objects

[06:53] Add a “lost” column

Identify the things you really wanted to include in your novel but that didn’t make it into this draft for whatever reason.

[08:07] What does this exercise tell you?

1. It identifies the things you love and want to keep.
2. It tells you what you would need to change to love your novel.
3. It will show you areas where you can improve as a writer.
4. It will show you where you can make obvious cuts.
5. It will reveal placeholder elements that need to be replaced.
6. It will show you where you lost your vision.

[12:45] Identify the core of your novel

Why did you want to write this story? What matters to you most? What do you most want to convey?

[13:48] Look for incompatible elements

Go through the lists you’ve created and search for things that are incompatible with your vision or that contradict the things you love and get rid of them.

[18:00] Indicate “cut,” “strengthen,” and “replace” for each item in your “Hate” and “Indifferent” columns

Go through and figure out what you definitely want to cut, what needs to be strengthened, and what needs to be replaced. Use parentheses (or whatever method works for you) to indicate what type of change needs to be made or the reason you want to make that change (for example: Strengthen: because it’s incompatible with my vision).

[20:01] Ask yourself what would need to happen for you to move each item to the “love” category

This can help you to identify the underlying problems and can assist if you get stuck and aren’t able to figure out how to improve an element of the novel.

[22:36] Next Steps

I recommend that from here, you use a scene list or outline to assist you in the editing process. This can save time and make your editing more efficient.

Video on editing using a scene list:

*Stay tuned until the end for a rare sighting of Toby (my dog).

Thanks so much for watching, liking, sharing, and for your support!

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