I decided to write this ultimate guide to writing and editing a novel for a number of reasons. Firstly, I wanted to create something that would answer as many questions for aspiring novelists as possible all in one place. Secondly, I wanted an additional resource for my editing clients that would allow them to explore the issues with their manuscript in more depth than I explain in my notes alone.
This guide is still in progress. There is a lot of false or unclear information on the web about novel writing, so I want as much of the information in this guide as possible to come directly from me – meaning that I have to find the time to write it all up (and there’s a lot to write). So stay tuned for additions and updates. If there’s something you’d like added to the guide that you don’t see here, leave a comment or shoot me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks!
Point of View
There are four basic types of point of view:
- First Person
- Third Person Limited
- Third Person Omniscient
- Second Person
You must choose, study, and fully understand your point of view before starting your novel. If you wait until the editing process to clean up point of view, you’re in for a hot mess, but it can still be done.
This is a must-read article for those attempting to write in Omniscient.
Is your third person flip-flopping between third limited and omniscient? You might be surprised.
This will help you choose whether the bad guy’s point of view will help or hurt your novel. It will also give you tips on how to use the POV successfully.
Novels are generally written in either present tense or past tense (a few are written in future tense, but very, very few). It’s important that the tense in your novel remains consistent. Errors in tense do not make agents and editors happy.
Not sure why you would pick one tense over the other? This article will help.
This is a helpful article for anyone who struggles to stick to only one tense.
A discussion of the potential downfalls of jumping on the present tense bandwagon.
Is your novel too long or too short? Find out!
A breakdown of the common adult novel genres and their ideal lengths.
Tips and tricks for shortening novels that are too long.
Writing the Middle Grade Novel
Middle grade novels present a special set of challenges. This section of the guide will address potential issues and include tips on how to successfully write middle grade.
In this article, I analyze the most common genres and topics in bestselling middle grade.
In this article, I analyze the most commonly chosen tense (past or present) and point of view (first or third person) of bestselling middle grade novels.
Learn what goes into writing a great middle grade novel.
A common question. Make sure you know the answer before you start writing.
Writing the Young Adult Novel
Young adult novels are not just adult novels with young characters. This section will help you learn the expectations and limitations of YA.
This answers one of the most common questions about YA .
This article discusses what language is appropriate in YA novels.
A common question. Make sure you know the difference before you start writing.
The key to a great novel is great characters. This section discusses how to write awesome, realistic, likeable characters.
Having your characters cry can actually reduce tension and sympathy rather than building it. Find out why.
The characters are only as strong as their descriptions. Make sure you get the descriptions right.
Character development is vital to likeable and realistic characters. This video takes you through the process of characterization.
Believable characters are important. It’s easier to write an unbelievable character than you might think.
Writing the First Chapter
The first chapter is such an important part of the novel writing process that I’m giving it its own section. The opening chapter is absolutely vital because it’s the first thing agents and editors will read. If your first chapter sucks, nobody will stick around to read the second.
First Page Friday
First Page Friday is a section on my blog where I give a free edit and critique of the first 500 words of an unpublished novel. You can learn a lot by reading through my past edits and critiques. You can also submit your own.
This is a guest post I wrote for Writing Forward. It breaks down the elements of an interesting and engaging first chapter.
This video covers common issues I see in my clients’ first chapters.
There are some key elements that great first chapters share. This video explores those elements.
This section contains articles about the basics of editing, its goal, and the problems to look for.
Learn why we edit and what we’re trying to accomplish.
This article covers the most common errors in first drafts and how you can solve them.
Linear order can ramp up the tension and suspense in your novel. Learn why and how you can use this to your advantage.
Learn to avoid repetition on a sentence, paragraph, and story level.
Learn what makes a scene or chapter bad and how you can fix it.
Learn what beta readers are and whether or not you need one.
Telling vs. Showing
This is a concept that most writers know, but many don’t understand. This section will help you grasp how to show instead of tell as well as why it is important.
Learn why telling can seem like hand holding.
Info Dumps are huge chunks of telling. Learn how to dump info without info dumping for smoother, more professional writing.
Not sure how much backstory you can convey in each chapter or scene? This article will help.
Words to Cut From Your Novel
Not all words are good for your novel. Some of them weaken the prose or lower tension. If you want to write at a professional level, these are the words to cut.
Learn how to use the “find and replace” feature on your word processor to eliminate troubling words from your prose.
These three words can weaken your prose – learn what they are and how to get rid of them.
Learn why “-ing verbs” weaken your prose.
Learn why you should chop hands out of your novel to strengthen your writing.
Why time-based adverbs suck.
Learn what “filtering” is and why it damages your prose.
Punctuation & Grammar
Issues with punctuation and grammar can be overlooked by agents and editors to some degree, but too many errors is likely to lead to unclear sentences and frustration. Plus it makes the editing process ten times harder, which could be enough to scare people away.
Read this even if you think you’re punctuating dialogue correctly. Most people aren’t.
For most writers, publishing is the end goal. This can be a tricky and complex process with loads of tough decisions. This section of the guide should help.
Ever wonder why getting published is so difficult? Read this article for answers.
Is a small publishing house a good idea? I attempt to answer this question based on my own experiences editing for small presses.
This is a forum on the popular writing site AbsoluteWrite.com. You can use this forum to check on other writers’ experiences with publishing houses and agents.
This is another great place to check on agents and publishers’ reputations.
Self publishing is complicated. Whether you’re only just considering it or you’ve already put a book up for sale, these articles should help.
Do you get the sense people aren’t taking your novel seriously? This article will help.
Sometimes self publishing can seem vain or even desperate. Here’s how to talk about your self published book without falling into either of those traps.
Thinking about self publishing? Here are the things to consider.
Hiring a Freelance Editor
This section is for writers who are interested in hiring a freelance editor. While of course I hope you’ll take a moment to check out my services, these articles apply to all editors and should help you in choosing the right one.
You don’t need someone to love your book, you need someone to analyze it. Here’s why.
This is my most popular post. Everyone wants to know how much to spend for a good novel edit. This should answer your questions.
Don’t know a developmental edit from a proofread? This video will help.
NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) takes place is November of every year and is a great way to push yourself to write your novel. I encourage every aspiring writer to try it at least once. You will learn a ton about yourself and your writing style.
Everything you need to know about surviving the crazy, hectic, awesome month of NaNoWriMo.