10 Steps to Editing Your Novel by Melanie Hooyenga

Happy Friday! I'm really excited to have YA author, Melanie Hooyenga here to talk to us about her editing process. Ack! Editing is the bane of my existence and I'm thankful for all the tips I can get to make it a smoother process. So, click your fingers on your keyboard for a round of virtual applause to welcome Melanie to Strands of Thought!
You did it! You finished writing an ENTIRE NOVEL! Turn off your computer, read a book—celebrate!

If you’ve ever written a full-length manuscript you know what a monumental feat it is to finally write those elusive words, The End. I’ve written five novels (plus one memoir that we don’t talk about) and typing those six little letters never gets old.

Give yourself a week off, then hunker down in your favorite chair because it’s time to work. Everyone edits differently, and what works for me may not work for you, but hopefully these tips will help you get through the dreaded phase of writing: EDITING.

1: The First Read
The first time you read your manuscript, note where to make the changes you know need fixing, as well as anything small, like typos. This might take a couple passes, but the goal here is to read like a reader -- not an editor -- to catch the places that need to be changed.

2: The Second Read
Now go through more slowly, taking time to fix plot inconsistencies, strengthen dialogue, and restructure any scenes that don’t flow. This can take anywhere from a few days to a couple weeks.

3: Send to Beta Readers
Hopefully you’ve already enlisted a crew of beta readers who are eager to shred your masterpiece. This should include fellow writers, avid readers, and MAYBE a family member or two (but only if they promise to be honest). Take a deep breath and just hit send. But don’t send it to everyone at once—you’ll want to save some for later drafts.

4: Cry (Kill Your Darlings)
This part might sting. Because we’re so close to our work, we can’t see the things that are wrong with it—that’s why we enlist beta readers—and while they’ll love some parts, there are others that just don’t work. Ultimately, it’s your decision what you do with their input, but you’ll most likely have to say goodbye to a favorite passage or twelve.

5: Send to More Beta Readers
The anxiety you felt the last time should be gone and now you’re excited to share your newly improved manuscript with the next batch of readers.

6: Cry (Tears of Joy This Time)
Hooray! The changes you made in the last draft worked! The second group of readers found a few more things that need changing, but you’re getting closer. Make those tweaks and...

7: Send to MORE Beta Readers
I often resend the final draft to one of my first readers so she can see how the story has progressed with each round of revisions, as well as a small group of readers who may not know proofreading, but know what works and what doesn’t (this could be a good time for your Aunt Mildred).

8: Polish, Polish, Polish
Now’s your last chance to go through your manuscript with a fine-toothed comb. Try reading out loud, reading from back to front, then normally one last time. Now you’re ready to...

9: Submit
When your manuscript was out with readers you should have researched agents or publishers and compiled a list you’d like to query, as well as written and polished your query letter (you should also run your letter by editor friends). Take a deep breath and send to 3-5 agents on your list. Don’t send it to everyone at once—you may need to tweak your query letter after the first round (does this sound familiar?).

10: Celebrate for Real
Some people save a fancy bottle of wine. Others get a tattoo. Whatever you do, be sure you celebrate your accomplishment. You’ve FINISHED a novel. Not just written a novel, you’ve put it through the wringer, shed sweat and tears, eaten more than your share of dark chocolate sea salt caramels (or maybe that’s just me), neglected other responsibilities, all to get to this point where you can call yourself a writer.

This process might take more or less time, but hopefully this gives you an idea what to expect. The main thing to remember is if you’re editing your novel, that means you’ve FINISHED a novel, and that’s always something to celebrate.

Melanie Hooyenga first started writing as a teenager and finds she still relates best to that age group. Her young-adult novel, FLICKER, debuted in November 2012, the sequel, FRACTURE, released in June 2014, and the final book, FADED, will be published in June 2015. When not at her day job as a graphic designer, you can find her attempting to wrangle my Miniature Schnauzer Owen and playing every sport imaginable with her husband Jeremy.

Learn more about Melanie at www.melaniehoo.com.


  1. Yes, yes. Great points, Melanie. Edit, edit, edit. Send to those marvelous critique partners. They're so awesome. Thanks for reminding us.

    1. I LOVE my critique partners!!!! Couldn't do it without you guys, Beverly!

    2. Thanks to you, fabulous crit partner, my manuscript, you knowm the one that keeps going on and on, is now complete. :)

    3. Yippee for you! I'm sure you are both happy and relieved. I'm SO glad you stuck with it. I love that story!

    4. Thanks Beverly. I'm glad you found this helpful. I love my crit partners too!

  2. Great advice Melanie! I am currently working on Editing/Revising now and I think I'm almost ready to send it to my beta readers. I like how you suggest having two different reading groups go over it at different times. Thanks for sharing!
    Amanda :D

    1. I agree, Amanda - Melanie's suggestion of 2 groups is so smart. Thanks for stopping by.

    2. I often have even more than that, but I definitely think you should save people for different drafts. I've had situations where I thought it was nearly complete, then one person pointed out something that completely flipped my edits on their ear.

      Good luck!


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