I have discussed writing your first draft and even doing some editing as you write, but today I wanted to talk about content editing. This is where you aren’t fixing just wording or punctuation but looking more at the plot and characters.
In a content edit you might…
1.) Flesh out a character’s back story – in appropriate places, of course.
2.) Flesh out setting and character descriptions. You add the details that will make your world a little more real. You explain your character’s actions so their choices make sense.
3.) Adjust a line of dialogue so it sounds more like the character’s voice or stays on target with the conversation and you ensure that all characters don’t talk alike.
4.) Double check which characters are in a scene and where they are located in that scene. (Val is on the couch by the fire, and then he is leaning against the wall or pacing.) If you have a large cast of characters, you can keep a spreadsheet of where each is located at any point in the story. I did this while writing The Elemental trilogy since the protagonist, her cohorts and the antagonist were almost always in different locations.
5.) Add in a subplot or flesh out one in your current draft. This of course can change MANY scenes and will require a lot of attention to what happens where and when but can make you novel more complete.
6.) Make sure that there is a substantial conflict in your story and that the tension rises as the story progresses.
This round of editing is not the final round. And with each read of your novel, you will probably find more content edits to make. (This is one good reason to use Beta Readers as they routinely catch these types of errors.)
I find it easiest to do content editing in stages by chapter. I have a checklist I go through that helps not only with content editing but helps reduce wordiness and stuff like that. (Check back next week and I will share that revision outline.)
Just remember not to become overwhelmed with editing your novel. Each round of editing, each draft of your novel is hopefully bringing you closer to having a well-written, well-developed novel.