NaNoWriMo: External Edit

As you’re writing for NaNoWriMo, you may have stumbled against some of my blog entries to help you create your story.  If so, then you’ve read about the steps I normally take.  Up until now, I’ve gone through:

  • Inspiration
  • Character Motivation
  • Plot Structure
  • Polishing
  • Writer’s Block: The Walkabout

Now I’ll discuss doing an external edit.

External Edit

How you do this will depend on your budget and preference.  If you’re self-publishing a book, and have no investment capital, then you might want to take a free approach.

There are some super easy ways to go about getting people to read your book.  Chances are, if you’re a book nerd, then you probably have some friends that are book nerds too.  If you have zero budget, you can set up a simple Google Document, and invite some friends to participate in an editing pass.

If you’re getting non-professionals to edit your work, then you should give them some guidelines.  Ask them to look at things in the following way:

  • First impressions
  • Did you like the story?
  • Was it engaging?
  • Was it too fast, too slow?
  • Did you relate to the characters?
  • Was it plausible/believable?

I always think of a top-down approach.  I’m not going to get a lot out of a pure technical edit (grammar, spelling) because I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to those things.  What I really want is to know whether it’s a good book, but you can’t just ask your friends if it’s good or not, because friends will always say that it’s good – they don’t want to hurt your feelings.

So dig deeper.  You might even want to create out a quick questionnaire that they can fill out.  You can use some free tools to do this easily.

I generally prefer to have more than just one or two people read it, especially if the “editors” are non-professionals.  I try for 4 or 5.

If you do have a budget, though, then think about spending some of it on a professional edit.  There are various different references for this.  You can get some really quality help with this on

Also if you’re looking for more tips, then check out Derek Murphy’s blog or better yet, buy his book on the kindle store.  He points out how you can get all kinds of services for a low fee, such as editing, but also help designing your book cover and all kinds of other interesting things.

After getting your book edited, then you have to decide how you’ll take the feedback you get.  Chances are, there are things that will work well, and things that won’t.  There may be some aspects that don’t resonate with your audience.

The sign of a real professional is how to incorporate this feedback and address it.  If you just ignore it, and say something like, “Those changes won’t allow me to fulfill my artistic vision,” then you may be mission an opportunity to take your book from an 8 to a 10.

I’m not suggesting that you necessarily have to make all the changes that all your editors suggest, particularly if you’re getting your book edited by a group of your friends.  At some point you may decide to leave some feedback unaddressed.  But at least consider it, and understand why that person is giving that feedback.  Maybe there’s something else, somewhere else in your story, that you can adjust that will resolve their discomfort with that element.

Now once you’ve completed the external edit, and made the changes, now it’s time to do what you want with this masterpiece!  You can choose to send it out to publishers, going through the query process, sending chapters, then hopefully getting a contract.  Or, you can self-publish on platforms like Amazon.

There are pros and cons to each approach.  If you are going through a publisher, then this process will take time.  It will be months before you’ll know whether you succeed or not.

If you self-publish, then you’ll be responsible yourself for taking care of all the other factors.  This includes things like:

  • Designing the book cover (Derek Murphy has great insights on this as well)
  • Writing a great summary (get this edited on fiverr)
  • Getting reviews on your book
  • Setting up your own website, blog, and social media accounts
  • Writing a great author bio (get this edited)
  • Formatting the book properly to read well on ebook format

Never simply trust yourself.  Get feedback wherever possible.  These elements are what will end up selling your book.  These are what your potential customers will see.  So you have to get it right!

Hope it all goes well for you, write on!

About L. V. Birdsong

I am a writer, and love writing both Gay Romance and Science Fiction novels. I love whiskey, have 2 cats, and love to read!
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