The Ultimate Guide to Writing and Editing a Novel


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: Thanks!

Point of View

There are four basic types of point of view:

  1. First Person
  2. Third Person Limited
  3. Third Person Omniscient
  4. 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.


The Difference Between Omniscient Point of View and Head Hopping

This is a must-read article for those attempting to write in Omniscient.

Developing a Solid Third Person Point of View

Is your third person flip-flopping between third limited and omniscient? You might be surprised.

Tips & Pitfalls When Including the Villain’s Point of View

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.


The Pros and Cons of Writing Your Novel in Past Vs. Present Tense

Not sure why you would pick one tense over the other? This article will help.

How to Avoid Errors in Tense

This is a helpful article for anyone who struggles to stick to only one tense.

Writing in Present Tense Might be a Bad Idea

A discussion of the potential downfalls of jumping on the present tense bandwagon.

Novel Length

Is your novel too long or too short? Find out!


How Long Should a Novel Be?

A breakdown of the common adult novel genres and their ideal lengths.


How to Shorten the Length of Your Novel

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.


Bestselling Middle Grade Part 1: Genres and Topics

In this article, I analyze the most common genres and topics in bestselling middle grade.

Bestselling Middle Grade Part 2: Tense & Point of View

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.


How to Write a Great Middle Grade Novel

Learn what goes into writing a great middle grade novel.

What is the Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult?

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.


“Edgy” YA Fiction: Is Sex a Selling Point or Off Limits?

This answers one of the most common questions about YA .

“Edgy” YA Fiction: Can I Curse in YA?

This article discusses what language is appropriate in YA novels.


What is the Difference Between Middle Grade and Young Adult?

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.


Don’t Let Your Character’s Be Crybabies

Having your characters cry can actually reduce tension and sympathy rather than building it. Find out why.

Are You Writing Bad Character Descriptions?

The characters are only as strong as their descriptions. Make sure you get the descriptions right.


How to Write Interesting and Complex Characters

Character development is vital to likeable and realistic characters. This video takes you through the process of characterization.

How to Write Believable Characters

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.


Nailing Your Novel’s First Chapter

This is a guest post I wrote for Writing Forward. It breaks down the elements of an interesting and engaging first chapter.


First Chapter Mistakes and Cliches

This video covers common issues I see in my clients’ first chapters.

How to Write a Great First Chapter

There are some key elements that great first chapters share. This video explores those elements.

Editing Basics

This section contains articles about the basics of editing, its goal, and the problems to look for.


The Goal of Editing

Learn why we edit and what we’re trying to accomplish.

First Draft Problems and How to Fix Them

This article covers the most common errors in first drafts and how you can solve them.

How to Increase Tension with Linear Order

Linear order can ramp up the tension and suspense in your novel. Learn why and how you can use this to your advantage.

Writers, Stop Repeating Yourselves

Learn to avoid repetition on a sentence, paragraph, and story level.

How to Spot a Bad Scene or Chapter

Learn what makes a scene or chapter bad and how you can fix it.


Does Your novel Need a Beta Reader?

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.


Are You Treating Your Readers Like They’re Stupid?

Learn why telling can seem like hand holding.

How to Dump Info Without Info Dumping

Info Dumps are huge chunks of telling. Learn how to dump info without info dumping for smoother, more professional writing.

How Much is Too Much Backstory?

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.


Improve Your Novel with Find and Replace

Learn how to use the “find and replace” feature on your word processor to eliminate troubling words from your prose.

Three Words to Banish from Your Novel (or else!)

These three words can weaken your prose – learn what they are and how to get rid of them.

Stop Using “-ing verbs”

Learn why “-ing verbs” weaken your prose.

Leave Hands Out of Your Novel…No, Really

Learn why you should chop hands out of your novel to strengthen your writing.

Immediately, Suddenly, Finally, Oh My! (why you should avoid time-based adverbs)

Why time-based adverbs suck.

An Easy Way to Improve Your Novel Right Now

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.


The Ultimate Guide to Punctuating Dialogue

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.


Why is it so Hard to Get Published?

Ever wonder why getting published is so difficult? Read this article for answers.

7 Reasons to be Wary of Small Publishing Houses

Is a small publishing house a good idea? I attempt to answer this question based on my own experiences editing for small presses.

Other Resources

Bewares, Recommendations, & Background Checks

This is a forum on the popular writing site You can use this forum to check on other writers’ experiences with publishing houses and agents.

Preditors & Editors

This is another great place to check on agents and publishers’ reputations.

Self Publishing

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.


How to Get People to Take Your Self Published Novel Seriously

Do you get the sense people aren’t taking your novel seriously? This article will help.

What (Not) to Say When People Ask why you Self Published

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.

Is Self Publishing Right for You?

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.


Why Logical Editors are Better than Passionate Ones

You don’t need someone to love your book, you need someone to analyze it. Here’s why.

How Much Should You Pay for a Freelance Editor?

This is my most popular post. Everyone wants to know how much to spend for a good novel edit. This should answer your questions.


What are the Different Types of Novel Edits

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.


The Ultimate NaNoWriMo Survival Guide

Everything you need to know about surviving the crazy, hectic, awesome month of NaNoWriMo.

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