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Stages of novel editing

Last updated on 22/06/2023

When it comes to editing a novel, there are several stages that can help refine and polish your manuscript. They can sometimes be known by various names and this can lead to confusion but these names I have listed given the description of which aspect is to be edited in that stage. Here are the key stages of novel editing:

Structural Editing

This stage involves examining the overarching structure of your novel. Evaluate the plot’s progression, ensuring it has a strong beginning, middle, and end. Assess the pacing to maintain reader engagement, avoiding slow or rushed sections. Analyse the character arcs, making sure they are consistent and satisfying. Consider the balance between exposition, dialogue, and action, ensuring each serves the story effectively.

Plot and Scene Editing

Dive deeper into the individual scenes and chapters. Examine each scene’s purpose and relevance to the overall plot. Check for strong openings and endings that hook readers and leave them wanting more. Evaluate the flow and transitions between scenes, ensuring a smooth and logical progression. Assess the tension, conflict, and suspense, making adjustments as needed to maintain a compelling narrative.

Character Development

Focus on the depth and complexity of your characters. Assess their motivations, goals, and conflicts. Ensure they have distinct voices and personalities that shine through their actions, dialogue, and thoughts. Consider their arcs and growth throughout the story, ensuring they evolve in a believable and satisfying manner. Look for opportunities to deepen their emotional journeys and relationships with other characters.

Dialogue Editing

Scrutinize your dialogue to ensure authenticity and effectiveness. Each line should reveal something about the characters or advance the plot. Make sure the dialogue sounds natural and matches each character’s voice, background, and personality. Eliminate any instances of exposition or unnecessary repetition within the dialogue. Focus on creating engaging and impactful conversations that propel the story forward.

Descriptive and Expository Editing

Pay attention to your descriptive passages and expository sections. Strike a balance between providing vivid details and maintaining a good pace. Use sensory language, vivid imagery, and specific word choices to bring settings, characters, and events to life. Eliminate any excessive or irrelevant descriptions that may slow down the narrative. Ensure your descriptions contribute to the atmosphere, mood, and tone of the story.

Language and Style Editing

Refine the language, style, and tone of your writing. Read through your manuscript, focusing on clarity, consistency, and coherence. Eliminate unnecessary repetition, clichés, and jargon. Enhance the flow of sentences and paragraphs, ensuring a natural and engaging reading experience. Pay attention to the rhythm and cadence of your sentences, using varied sentence structures to maintain reader interest.

Copy Editing

Conduct a meticulous review of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax. Check for consistency in spelling, capitalization, and formatting throughout your manuscript. Ensure proper sentence structure and eliminate any grammar errors or awkward phrasing. Pay attention to punctuation to ensure clarity and accuracy. A thorough copy edit ensures your novel meets professional standards and is free from distracting errors.


The final stage involves a careful and methodical proofread of your manuscript. Read through every line, focusing on catching any remaining typos, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors. Check for formatting inconsistencies, missing words, or repeated phrases. Consider enlisting the help of a fresh set of eyes, such as a proofreader or beta reader, to ensure a clean and polished final draft.

Remember that editing is an iterative process, and it’s important to revise and refine your work multiple times. Seek feedback from beta readers, writing groups, or professional editors to gain valuable insights and fresh perspectives. Each stage of editing contributes to the overall improvement and refinement of your novel, bringing it closer to its full potential and captivating readers.

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Published inEditingWriting


  1. These are such great tips for writing a novel. I haven’t written one but I am actually working on writing a book so I find this really helpful. I’m saving it for later.

  2. Awesome breakdown. This is really helpful for writers, editors, and proofreaders to get a quick idea of a successful novel edit.

  3. A. H. A. H.

    This is awesome! I love having actionable steps to move through, makes the whole process so much less daunting!

  4. Wonderful blog post on novel editing! Editing is such a crucial part of the writing process, and your article offers helpful insights and guidance to writers.

  5. I’ve never thought about writing a novel because it seemed too daunting but this list makes it seem more manageable. Thanks for sharing!

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