Before you start any self editing, you’ll need to gather tools to keep yourself notes. This can be on a sticky pad with pens or pencils, maybe paper clips or highlighters to use on the printed out version, in a special notebook dedicated to your novel, or in a digital format like in Word or on Evernote.
After you sort that out and settle on an approach, there’s nothing left to do but start reading. Don’t be afraid to go crazy with the notes, but always be on the lookout for what jumps out at you as a reader.
To that end, you’re keeping your eyes peeled for three things.
- confusing or not consistent, where you’ve accidentally changed a character name, the name of their school, or even that they picked up a machete two pages ago but have suddenly forgotten about it with a horde of zombies breaking down the door. It can also be about your author voice, and changing perspectives between characters.
- boring – where do you loose yourself to the desire to skip through your book. It could be dialogue, or description, or something else entirely. But write the note even if it’s just a giant ‘B’ with a circle.
- dis-believable. When something happens that just could not happen, either in the context of your novel or because its just flat out not possible. If you have your hero on an adrenaline rush, sure, they might be able to move that collapsed piece of ceiling, but maybe their scrawny book-worm friend couldn’t. Barricading a glass door won’t keep zombies out like if it was a wooden door, but the way you first wrote it there might as well be a forcefield in place (unless there really are forcefields, then it’s all good).
While you’re doing all that, though, and picking apart your writing, wondering just how many cups of coffee you’d had or how many hours you’d been awake when you wrote it, don’t just highlight the stuff that needs to be fixed. That can get daunting, and discouraging if all your notes are full of problems. So do yourself the favor and be your own cheerleader – highlight the good stuff! Every writer has moments of sheer brilliance that can be looked back on in wonder. “I wrote this? Wow. I can be pretty awesome at this writing thing.” Star it. Put a sticker on it. Write it on a separate piece of paper and hang it on your refrigerator. Whatever you want to do. That way, when you’re looking through your notes, you can find them and see all the things you did right that mean this is a story worth telling.
How do you usually take notes? Pay it forward and let us know here in the comments.