Chapter Edits – A Quick Overview

I’m still in editing mode. Which means sometimes I feel like Sisyphus – the guy fated to push the rock uphill for eternity – because just when I feel like I’m getting somewhere I realise there is something else that needs attention and the whole process starts again.

Discouraged? Surprisingly not. I figure I’m on a learning curve and my writing is going to be so much better for it. I can already see improvement, and I’m holding on to this when the editing notes seem longer than the text itself.

My latest editing pass has actually been quite fun. (Yes I never expected to ever post those words). Probably because this time I’ve been doing chapter edits.

This format evolved when I was beta reading for some friends. I’d make notes in the manuscript, but in order to keep the finer points of the plot at the front of my mind I’d do a short chapter summary, so I could easily go back and check plot details. This included a short summary of what was happening to advance the plot, and short notes on where the chapter was working or not.

What really surprised me was how easy it was to evaluate the plot, and to identify character or writing weaknesses. The great thing about looking at a chapter like this is that you can quickly see where your plot is moving, where it’s slowing down, or worse – not moving at all. And I figured this would be a great tool to use on my own work.

To give you an idea of what it looks like, I’ve included an example I did on Chapter Two of my WIP:

Chapter 2:

Celeste’s POV: Celeste is watching Marcus spar, small intimate scene where Marcus indicates he knows Josiah is at the Upper Reach. Josiah arrives and asks Marcus to be King.

What I like about this scene is the ease between Marcus and Celeste and in particular her response to him. I’d like to see a bit more ambition / calculation from him and her surprise that he knew this was coming / was involved in making it happen? Show more small cracks between the two?

The dialogue is far too stilted.

The references to the children and family when Josiah is there aren’t working.

Having run the start of my WIP through this I’ve realised my dialogue needs serious work, the opening chapters need more tension and plot catalysts, and I haven’t hit the right note on two of my male characters (going back to make sure I’m showing someone in a moment of weakness – not a weak person). Things I can now attempt to remedy.

For many of you, further ahead in your writing journey, I imagine the editing process gets easier – especially as your skills improve. That’s what I’m hoping for anyway. So far this has been an incredibly helpful tool, and I’m confident my rewrite will be the better for it.

How about you? Do you have any editing tips you’ve found really helpful?

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15 thoughts on “Chapter Edits – A Quick Overview

  1. With time, I have found that it’s usually the same as aspects of my writing that need revising, thus I have created a check list and I go through each scene with it. It saves me a lot of time, and makes the whole process easier. Good luck with your revisions!

    1. Thanks! The check list idea is a good one too. I’m in the middle of creating a monster check list at the moment (it feel like there are a lot of things I need to tweak / work on). I’m hoping as my skill improves the list will shrink somewhat.

  2. That’s brilliant! It’s almost like you’re analyzing each chapter as if it were its own short story. It sounds like a very effective tool for keeping the plot moving. Keep us posted on how it goes.

  3. I do something similar by writing a short synopsis of each chapter and then make a separate list of all the things that need further work and/or research. Between edits I put the novel away for as long a time as possible (I’m talking months not weeks) and then come back to it with a completely new perspective. It’s easier to find inconsistencies and really judge what is or isn’t working when you remove yourself from it for a decent amount of time.

  4. I think different people may come at this from different angles. I’m good at editing in some regards, and bad in others. I think I could learn a thing or two from your style of editing.

    1. I think we all are like that – our approach to editing is probably as unique as we are. For that reason I’d never say – this is the way to do it – just this is something that’s working for me right now. I’m sure you’ve got some good tips too!

      1. It’s something that I should try, I think.

        I might could help with dialogue. 😉 If my readers have been consistent in telling me anything, it’s that my dialogue sounds natural.

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