by Dawn Arkin

There’s an old saying in the writing world. Writing your novel is only half the job. Nothing could be truer. Getting your idea on paper is really only half the task. The other half is making it into a polished, ready to send off novel. That takes blood, sweat, and editing!

Many writers seem to think that what comes out of their fingers is perfect. That’s probably because it takes such an effort to make the written words flow. How could they not be perfect? While some of your writings will be quite good right off the bat. Most will need some polishing to be ready for a publisher to read. That’s where editing comes in.

There are many things to look at prior to sending your work out. Here are some checklists to use when you’ve finished editing your novel so you know it is at its most polished best.


  • Any story will need research done to make it realistic. Even a modern day story needs tidbits of reality to make the reader really believe it could happen. Using the right mix of detail to story will make your tale real to your readers. Once you finish, ask yourself theses questions.
  • Do I have enough details in my book to show the reader where, and when, the story takes place?
  • Have I spent enough time gathering information that is accurate?
  • Did I double check my research, from a separate source, to be sure it is correct?
  • Did I have a good sense of my novel’s needs when it came to the research?
  • Did I use enough details to make the story come to life, without overloading it with every trivial thing I found?
  • Did I take into account the accents and behaviors of the people in my time period, or location, while writing my novel?


Every author, no matter how famous, has to rewrite their work. It’s what sets the great writers off from the not so great. You can’t get away with not rewriting your work. So ask yourself these questions when you think you’ve finished your edits.

  • Did you read your manuscript through the first time without making any changes to get an idea of what did, and didn’t work?
  • Did you make notes of the parts that didn’t work?
  • Did you try to find out why those parts didn’t work?
  • Did you go through and find the repetitive words, phrases and ideas in your novel?
  • Have you marked the places that could use more details and marked the places that could use fewer details?
  • Did you resolve those places during the next edit?
  • Have you shown your story to the reader, instead of telling him the tale?
  • Does your novel move at a proper pace, keeping the reader reading from start to finish?
  • Did you do an edit for your grammar and spelling mistakes?
  • And did you remember not to rely completely on spell/grammar checks in your word processing program?
  • Have you let another person read your work and comment on it?

If any of these questions are answered in the negative, you need to do another edit. Do not fall into the trap of thinking your piece is perfect. Remember, writing is a journey and often times the path requires more than one traveling.


One of the best tools a writer can have is feedback. Finding other readers and writers to go through your work and give you crucial insight into it is worth its weight in pens and paper. Ask yourself these questions in regards to the feedback you’ve received.

  • Have I had enough people look at my piece?
  • Did enough people read it, both friends and strangers?
  • Did I read through all received comments, not just the positive ones?
  • Did I take each comment with a grain of salt, making sure the comments were helpful and not useless?
  • Did I remind myself the reader was commenting on my novel, not on my abilities as a writer?
  • Did I remember that each reader will base their comments on their own personal experiences and opinions?
  • Have I been polite and thanked every reviewer, even the ones that didn’t have any nice things to say about my work?

Feedback is crucial to a writer, but in the end the decisions of what goes into a novel are the writers. But keep this in mind: if most reviewers are pointing out the same thing you should take note and give that spot a more careful look. Editing a novel is a long involved process. It can take even the most experienced writer a great deal of time, effort, and patience. But the end results are well worth the time.

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