5 Common Editing Mistakes When You Rewrite Your Manuscript by Linnea Gradin
Let’s welcome back Linnea Gradin as she shares with us “5 Common Editing Mistakes When You Rewrite Your Manuscript.” Enjoy!
The rewriting stage is often where you spend the most time as an author, navigating the space between starting from scratch and accidentally writing the same thing over and over again.
As frustrating and challenging as it might be, mastering this fine art is one of the best ways to polish your story into the diamond it can be.
To help you do so, I’ve outlined five common mistakes that every author should avoid as they rewrite their manuscripts.
Mixing up character names
You may think that you’ll never be one of those silly authors who’d mess up something as fundamental as character names. But you’d be surprised how easy it is to fall in this trap.
Having three different spellings of the same name — or indeed two different names for the same character — can be distracting and confusing.
You may think that you have your characters under control, but the deeper you get into your rewrite, the harder it is to keep track of everything.
Keeping small details such as character names organized can provide some much needed mental clarity as you address other issues in your manuscript or pitch your story to a literary agent, before you hire a copy editor to fix it for you at a later stage.
Changing character traits willy-nilly
Character traits and descriptions are slightly trickier to change than names.
Perhaps you’ve decided that, instead of the towering giant you originally had in mind, your protagonist would be more interesting if they were unlikable.
Go for it if you think that it will change your story for the better — but keep in mind the wider and long-reaching effects the transformation might have on your character and plot.
Is your character now more likely to make enemies than friends? Might they fail to reach the ledge that could bring them to safety at a vital moment?
Unexplained changes in setting
As you rewrite your manuscript, it’s common to delete or move whole scenes or parts of scenes.
These gaps can result in some pretty disorienting differences in setting — such as time, place, weather, and temperature.
Why does it go from being spring in one scene, to winter in the next, then back to summer?
Coming across these inconsistencies can distract and bring the reader out of the story, so be careful about it!
Sometimes authors leave inadvertent hints about setting without even intending to — such as a character removing their coat, or a flickering street light.
It wouldn’t make sense if they were wearing a coat in the middle of summer or if the street lights were on in the middle of the day, so make sure that your scenes match your markers, and vice versa.
Holding on to scenes for the wrong reasons
One of the hardest parts of rewriting is realizing when to let something go.
You’ve spent a lot of time constructing a scene and it definitely served a purpose at the time, but now that you’ve made a couple of changes and it no longer makes sense.
Even so, you convince yourself that it’s an essential part because you either really like the writing or think it adds another layer to your story.
However, you know that the scene is redundant if it neither progresses the plot nor tells you anything essential about the character– a detail that you haven’t shown in a different scene.
In this case, it’s best to commit and cut ties completely, rather than try to reduce the word-count just so you can hold on to it without feeling guilty.
Over-relying on self-editing
Lastly, it can be difficult to tell what isn’t jiving when you’ve stared at your draft for too long.
That’s why it’s necessary to get an outside perspective.
This can be a critique partner or friend, but you may also want to consider getting a professional developmental editor to assess your manuscript before you start rewriting in circles.
Thoughts from a Master
Hemingway once said that “the only kind of writing is rewriting,” and to some extent, every book is born out of this lengthy yet rewarding process.
Rewriting requires precise surgical incisions and stitching — and a whole lot of practice. Hopefully, this article has given you some tips to get you started. Happy rewriting!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Linnea Gradin is a writer at Reedsy — a UK-based marketplace that connects authors with freelancing professionals and offers helpful resources on everything from how to write query letters, to book cover design, to Amazon self-publishing.