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That would really be a breakthru

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I finally did it. I had my breakthrough! So far editing my novel has been a very trying and interesting experience. What has been one of the more frustrating aspects is that I’ve done plenty of editing before. Every time I’ve passed a short story through my writing group, I’ve taken their notes and reworked the story.

But for some reason jumping into the novel felt entirely different.

On the surface it seems like it wouldn’t be any different. Just more words and a bit more time. Both of those are still true, but what I found was that changes I wanted to make began a “butterfly effect.” I would start the change and it hit me just how much it affected the rest of the book. It would spread out like oil, causing other parts to need a change which would cause other parts to change, which would make my brain asplode.

Needless to say it was rather paralyzing. I would sit down with my laptop and all I could see were the webs of change looming out in front of me. So I thought about it for a couple of days and considered options on how to tackle the book. I looked for help from outside sources, but really only found everyone saying, “Now that your book is done, starting editing!” OK, that’s great but what are some methods? “Get rid of adverbs and passive sentences!” Great, thanks. Because I haven’t heard that before.

Basically what I discovered is a lack of solid ideas on how to tackle editing a novel on a plot level. Not just rephrasing sentences, but how to remove characters, add scenes, remove scenes, all while keeping you sane.

Which brought me to the point that I had to develop my own method from scratch.

I looked at my problem and this is what I came up with. First, I did another outline based on my first draft. Chapter by chapter I listed what major plot, character, setting moments happens. This way I could re-familiarize myself with the high level concepts of the novel. It helped me step away from the minutiae of each sentence.

After that, I made a copy of that outline and named it Draft 2 Outline. From here I went through and made changes based on what I wanted to accomplish. These were written in bold so they stood out. Now I was able to work through ideas in a big picture method. See how they effected things down the line and make sure those changes were written down.

This method has been very liberating for me. After finishing it up, I felt comfortable with where I was going and instantly jumped into writing a new scene and making the changes to proceeding scenes without fear of the unknown.

I’m certain I’ll still have remnants of the first draft still floating around that don’t mesh with my edits. But at least now I know the big major shifts. Those minor points will be easier to spot and squash.

For the first time, I’m excited about getting this book edited.



  1. Interesting method that you’ve developed here. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. Hi Jeffrey,

    You’ve got some very good points here. I pretty much faced the same problem in the early days – got bogged down in the detail and struggled to find a method to make the story work in a bigger-picture type way.

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