Step-by-step guide to a major structural edit. Step 5: now you can edit, rewrite, write
What’s next in our journey to edit the structure of a novel? To recap: we’ve completed a scene map, mapped the scenes to the story structure and character arcs, and created an outline while personalising the story structure. Step 5 is the last one in the structural editing process. This is where you delve into the story and make sure every part of it matches the story structure you’ve mapped out.
Step 5: now you can edit, rewrite, write
Start at the beginning. Have your outline open beside you. If you can, also have your mapped story structure available as well; you’ll probably need to refer to it as you change things.
Read chapter by chapter and pause after each chapter to check that it’s doing what it should be doing for the plot arc and character arcs. I often work on a print-out at this point. I use lots of highlighters and make lots of notes in each chapter. Once I have a chapter marked up, I enter the changes.
Once a chapter is changed, read through it again to make sure it flows the way you intended to. Go back to the previous chapter and read at least the last half of it, then read straight onto the one you’ve just edited. Does it flow? Is there a clear link between them? Is the end-of-chapter hook sufficient to move the story forward. Change things that don’t work.
Remind yourself regularly that this is a structural edit. Don’t worry over-much about spelling or punctuation errors, unless you’re like me and can’t move on without fixing them.
Continue doing this with each chapter: fix the chapter, read with the previous chapter, fix again.
You’ll probably pick up a lot of continuity errors during this process too. Either fix them now or mark them to fix later. I often just mark them so I stay focused on the task at hand and don’t get distracted.
No matter how careful you are with the editing during this stage, one run through is probably not going to be enough to achieve the final result you want. Be prepared to go through this process several times. You might also consider doing a proofread run in between structural runs to give yourself a break from it.
At some point, when you’re comfortable with the way the story is reading, you’re going to be ready to consult beta readers about the story. That’s when I pause and play what I’ve always called ‘my assignment song’. I began playing this song every time I completed an assignment to submission stage. I play it now every time I have a book finished enough that it ‘feels good’. I might still need to do a few edit runs, perhaps another structural edit run, but mostly the story is right, the plot works, the characters develop naturally and, most importantly of all, it’s not boring (to me anyway).
Here's my song: