A late blooming writer learns about editing and rewriting a novel

I admit, coming to the world of writing late in life, I was somewhat naive about the amount of work it takes to get a novel to print. I have had several articles published by Newspapers and Magazines. That was a matter of doing a query, getting acceptance, and then sending the 500 to 1,000 word article off.

There is the angst of seeing the editor slash your work to make it fit their framework, and their angle. But the timeline of an article can be as little as 3 to 6 months. Novels on the other hand, can take years, and require numerous rewrites, edits, and proofs that would try the faint of heart to even attempt it.

In my very first attempt at a Novel, I thought, no problem, this 109,000 word novel of fiction has been worked over by myself several times, and read by five good friends. It should be great. Now, remember, I said friends did a reading. Friends are great, but they are your friends – mostly because they haven’t really annoyed you that much.

For true feedback, and to get annoyed – you need a good editor! Yes, there it is, I’ve said it. A good start with your editor is a Manuscript Evaluation. This is where you’ll find out if your plot works, your characters are developed, and if there are dialogue issues.

Yes, a manuscript evaluation editor will find, and alert you to, the things that will make a reader want to put your book down. My first Manuscript evaluation was done by Iguana books. I waited two months, for 9 pages of notes to appear on my laptop. I was thrilled, well at first…until I saw the amount of work that needed to done to make the Novel presentable in the editors eyes.

In the next 5 months, I cut 20,000 words, dropped 3 characters that did not need to be there, and then came forward with what I thought was a shiny and new 89K word novel. And then the novel went into a Copy and Stylist Edit. Sentence structure is changed, dialogue is reworked, and commas are put in the right place, or removed.

When I received my Novel back from the copy and stylist edit, the pages showed a sea of red, where the editor had made her remarks. I could either change or ignore. In most cases I changed to her suggestions, unless I thought a message was being lost.

Now, after all of these edits, there is only the final proof read, after the Novel is formatted. And that is where your eyes start to jump as you reread every sentence looking for the error that you know, will end up on the EBook or in print.

Is all of this worth it? There is a more simple system. I believe there are several new applications where a program will edit your work for you, and you upload it to Amazon. But there is something about an editor, a real human being, questioning, and asking you why you put that word there, and challenging your interpretations. There is the evolution of the novel, that would not be the same with these editors.

I think good editors make good writers, or make good writers even better. They take us to task, they make us toe the line in our words. They do it for the readers, and isn’t that, in the end, what this is all about?

Published by


Lyle Nicholson is the author of four novels, two novellas and a short story, as well as several articles published in Canadian Magazines and Newspapers. His path to his writing was first as a terrible actor in a Johnny Cash movie, called Gospel Road. He played Andrew the Apostle and apologizes to all who see him in the movie. He was also a disobedient monk for several years and left the monastery to work at several jobs he'd was highly unsuccessful at until he started his own sales agency, where he finally had success. This was to the delight of his wife and his mother. He retired in 2011 and took up writing full time. He now lives with his lovely wife in Kelowna, where he writes, cooks and indulges in fine wines.

2 thoughts on “A late blooming writer learns about editing and rewriting a novel”

  1. Hi, i read your blog from time to time and i own a similar
    one and i was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses?
    If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you can recommend?
    I get so much lately it’s driving me insane so any assistance is very much appreciated.

Comments are closed.