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Finalizing Editing – Darby Rae

Finalizing Editing

How many times does an author edit her first novel before releasing it to be published?  I donʼt know…Iʼm still editing; although I believe at this point it would be fair to say I am  obsessing. I find it difficult to read my work without switching around a paragraph or  adding a line of dialogue. So, to help me stop obsessing, a final deadline of one week  has been ordered by my publicist. This means one final time through the story…and  then Iʼm finished obsessing.

Whatʼs my strategy to conduct the final edit? Well, since I have complete faith my  editing team has caught all the errors in grammar, spelling, tense, homonyms, etc…, I  plan to read Merciful Law out loud—start to finish—as though I was enjoying it from a  ʻreaderʼsʼ viewpoint not critiquing it from the ʻauthorʼsʼ viewpoint. Wish me luck with that!

Here are a few editing tips for aspiring novelists that would have shortened my process.

1. As you write your novel, build a timeline. Youʼll make fewer errors if you have  something to refer to as you write, and youʼll find details (like fireworks on July 4th) may  add to the action in your storyline.

2. Keep a running log of your characters including what page you introduce them,  physical features you mention throughout the story, and any personal information you  may refer to later on. In Merciful Law, Deborah has two sisters. I mention them by  name early in the story. Toward the end they are mentioned again. I recall not being  able to remember their names when I was writing the later chapter and I had to go  searching through the story to find them.

3. Proofread out loud to someone else. You can feel if your story is alive and if it flows  well by reading to a neutral third party. My teen daughter often has me read what Iʼm  working on to her. She has a great ear for detail and understands the ʻvoiceʼ of a  character quickly. (Thatʼs the loud voice of a proud mother, just in case you missed it.)  Her feedback has ranged from renaming characters to reworking an action scene, and  she doesnʼt sugar coat anything.

4. Keep your eye on the length of your book, if you have a goal in mind. My target is to  keep my novels under 400 pages, since thatʼs the average length of the typical  suspense novel I read. (My reasoning may be flawed, but that is honestly the basis for  the target.) I had the painful task of editing about 200 pages out of my first novel, and  having to scrub through the story to make sure there werenʼt any references to the  events in those pages. It also screwed up my timeline. The upside…if Merciful Law  has a sequel I have 200 pages already written!

5. Remember you are your own worst critic. As authors, we are like high school girls  standing in the mirror listing all the things we donʼt like about our appearance…wishing  we had Amyʼs hair, Connieʼs smile and Josiʼs back side. (Was I the only one who did  that in high school?) Consider yourself a unique entity and donʼt try to be another  author. You are bound to water down your own creative talents.

6. Most importantly, find a way to enjoy the process!


  1. Finally, an issue that I am passionate about. I have looked for information of this caliber for the last several hours. Your site is greatly appreciated.

  2. If you have questions–please feel free to post them. Editing my first book for release was a very long process, but in fairness, the learning curve was longer for me because I didn’t know what I didn’t know…and I wanted to figure it out. Thankfully the point person on my editing team has the patience of Job. Well, at least she did when we started! Thank you for visiting the site–just one more week till the release!

  3. Very interesting; thank you for sharing!

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