My Novel Editing Process

writing padAs I write this, (late January 2019, just getting a couple of blog posts done in advance!) I’m in the early revision stage of a new novel. I won’t bore you with it, suffice to say it’s going well.

I’ve been asked a few times about my novel editing process. And as it’s a fairly quirky one, I wondered if it would be interesting to read about? I don’t know, but it works for me, and if you can steal even an aspect of it, then why not?

I’m going to deal with two applications: The first is the one I currently use to write my novels, which is Ulysses for the mac and iOS devices. I can’t recommend it enough. But this isn’t a review of that app.

The second app is Vellum: a mac-based ebook generator. The only other tools are a pen and notepad, and a Kindle e-reader. The e-ink kind, not the tablet.

Okay, and in a few simple bullet points, here’s what I do:

  • I export the whole novel from Ulysses with a customised version of the Vellum export preset, as a .docx file.
  • I open the .docx file in Vellum. It automatically works out the chapters, scene breaks, etc.
  • I do some tiny tweaks to taste – just aesthetics so it’ll look nice to read, almost like a finished ebook. This is just for me, a little indulgence so I can see it in a way that maybe readers will see it.
  • I then export the project in Vellum as a Kindle .mobi file. This is the Mobipocket format that Amazon purchased the rights to years ago. Their e-readers are all 100% compliant with the format and display it pretty much perfectly from what I can tell.
  • I copy the file over to my Kindle.
  • I read it, slowly and carefully cover to cover. Any mistakes or changes, I document in detailed notes in a notepad. I should do this on an iPad really, my handwriting is terrible. But it works for me.
  • When I’m done (and this takes many days, doing maybe a couple or more chapters a day) I go back into my original Ulysses project and and make the changes there.
  • And that’s it. Rinse and repeat until it’s good enough to show to an actual editor! Starting from the first bullet point, I do all of this again and again until I think it’s there.

Only until I’ve done this whole process in two or three cycles, will I have what I consider a “proper” first draft.

Anyway, that’s me. I’m sure you have better ways that work for you – just thought I’d share mine!