A Basic Editing Guideline

Knowing when to use your beta reader or when to hire an editor can be tricky. Let’s keep this simple for today, and talk draft numbers/number of beta readers that your story has been through. The longer you write, the more that you will understand what kinds of edits you need and when.


First Drafts/First Beta Reading: This draft needs only content comments. At this point we don’t care about commas or word connotation. We need to know if this draft has big, gapping plot holes. We need to know if the character changes from start to finish. We need to know major, story changing information.


This is the draft that you need a book coach/writing group or friend to keep you accountable for if you are struggling.


Second Drafts: Some writers don’t even consider using a having a beta reader until the second draft. Again, this comes with time. When you’ve written for a while, you’ll be able to tell some of the big novel-changing plot issues on your own. Second drafts are where you want to pull in your awesome beta readers and we want to focus again on content. We want to catch those big and small plot issues. This is the draft where we can start consider individual chapters. Are they working together to build a story? What details have we missed? Do we have some misspellings? Cool, let’s right click and see how you’re supposed to spell that word.


This is the draft that you can use either an editor or book coach if you want. If you hire an editor here, you want them to do a content edit.


Third, Fourth Drafts: Hello, scenes! This is the draft where we focus on the scenes. Are they working well together. Does each scene have tension? Do they transition us from place to place both physically and emotionally, or are there places where the transition is jarring and I’m taken out of the story.


Are my sentence lengths varied? Do I have the correct connotation here? Is there a better way to say this? Is this cliché? Cool, let’s say it in an original way. We can get picky about word choice and think about the smaller components that make up a chapter.


This is a great draft to get an editor.


Fifth Drafts and on: Okay, now we can care about the commas. And if commas aren’t your thing hire an editor to line edit your story.

Happy writing friends.

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