While you have been writing this first draft of your manuscript, you should not be doing any editing. Think of your first draft as more of a really detailed outline. It will have some paragraphs, even whole scenes, that you will want to keep, but the rest of it will be the bones of your story, waiting for you to add the flesh and fill it out. It's your guide to the story you wanted to write. It's in the revising that you will add the polish and make your story shine.
As you near the completion of your novel, you might start thinking about editing your manuscript. Even if you plan on sending it off to a professional editor, you will want to have gone through and done as much editing as you are capable of first, so that the manuscript the editor receives from you will be the best you can make it without their help; then they can show you how to make it even stronger.
Here are some tips for editing your manuscript:
1. Instead of finishing your first draft and jumping straight into the editing, put your manuscript aside for a month or two. Taking a break from it will help you see it with fresh eyes when you begin the editing process.
2. Look for signs of narrative summary. This is when you tell the story to someone instead of showing them the story. It's like the difference between watching a movie about an event and having someone tell you about the event. When you are shown what is happening and shown the characters' emotions, you can picture it easily. When you are told about it, it loses some of its emotional impact. Long pieces of exposition are one of the signs to look for. Any time you do this, you risk losing your readers interest. When you have a scene that is a mixture of action and narrative summary, take away the narrative summary part of the scene; if the scene still works, then you didn't need the part that explained it all. Is there anywhere in your manuscript where you describe your characters' feelings? Try to show what they are feeling through their actions instead.
3. Remove the adverbs in your manuscript (words ending in -ly). Most of these are not as descriptive as they feel to you when you write them. For example, don't write that Jennifer "walked quietly;" say that she "tiptoed." find those unnecessary adverbs in your manuscript and get rid of them.
4. Check your point of view and make sure it is consistent throughout the manuscript. If you constantly switch from first person to third person, this will confuse your readers and weaken your manuscript considerably.
5. Get rid of redundancies. You will find as you re-read your manuscript that there are places where you have said the same thing more than once, just in two different ways. This is redundant and will slow the story's pace. Likewise, if you overuse the same word, it can become jarring to your reader. And some common phrases are redundant too. Phrases such as "exact same" and "brand new" are redundant. We use them in speech to create emphasis, but in writing, it is nothing more than an unnecessary redundancy.
6. Get rid of uses of the words "in order to," "start to, "very," "really" and "that." "She took the dog for a walk in order to get some exercise," could be more aptly written, "She took the dog for a walk to get some exercise." "She started to walk," could just be, "she walked." "It was the dog that Jenny loved," could just be, "It was the dog Jenny loved." Someone might find it "very difficult," but it's more powerful for them to just find it "difficult."
7. Check for sentences that begin with "there are," there is," or "there was" and remove them. Use more active phrasing. Starting sentences this way gives you a passive voice and weakens your manuscript.
8. Check for inconsistencies in your plot structure. If your character Jenny had blue eyes in the beginning, but they are green later on, that's an inconsistency. If you your characters find a magical talisman, but it never again makes an appearance, is used in the story or seems to have any bearing on any part of the story, that's an inconsistency (unless you are writing a series or trilogy and the talisman will show up in a later book). If you foreshadow something to happen later in the book but then change your mind while writing the book, so that the foreshadowed event never takes place, that's an inconsistency and you will need to go back and change every instance of foreshadowing.
9. Check for instances where you have used words with "-ing" endings and remove them if they are unnecessary (and they usually will be). For example, instead of writing, "she was dancing," write, "she danced."
10. Remove any extraneous commas.don't use commas everywhere you pause when you speak. Commas have specific uses. Brush up on the correct way to use them and then check that you have followed the rules in your manuscript.