When I finished writing my novel, Brew Books, I knew there was a HUGE task of editing in front of me. Honestly, where do you even start? When you’re staring at that big, messy manuscript, I bet you’re wondering, how do you possibly edit a novel? Are there any secret tips and tricks for editing your manuscript?
Editing a novel is definitely a big job, but let’s remember, you’ve already written it, so you’ve already done an amazing thing! So now that you’re ready to edit, I’ll let you in on the secret of how I edited my novel, using a tool called Fictionary.
I found out about Fictionary when I’d just finished writing Brew Books. The team at Wattpad reached out to me, because I was uploading the first draft as I wrote it to the Wattpad site. And they saw the promise in Brew Books and wanted to help me out in the momentous task of editing, before I got involved in a Wattpad beta program.
The tool lives completely on web, so you can access it anywhere. You upload your manuscript into the Fictionary tool and straight away the little fairies behind Fictionary (this is totally what I imagined the whole time, because of the name Fictionary) figure out some important things about your novel, like chapter lengths, position of the climax, where your characters are, and how your plot looks.
Cast of Characters
When you import your manuscript, you’re firstly asked to check over your characters. Every proper name is assigned as a character within the Fictionary app. You might find that some of these names aren’t actually characters – for example, in my novel I have a lot of references to Jane Austen, Harry Potter and Ernest Hemingway. The Fictionary tool thought these were characters too, so I just had to remove those until I only had my real characters in the novel.
Then you can see your list of characters in an alphabetical order. Instantly you might see some red flags – for example, if halfway through your novel you changed someone’s name from Harry to Henry. Or you might see that you have multiple characters with very similar names, that might make it confusing for your audience (I had a Kitty and a Kasey, so I decided to change Kasey’s name).
The Story Arc Tool
This is some magic that Fictionary starts working on right away. Visualise exactly the important points in your story – inciting incident, plot points, mid-point, climax and resolution. See your structure straight away on the handy map. I found this SO USEFUL to give myself a real visual representation of the shape of my story. Instantly with Brew Books I could see that my climax was way too late in my story (the last few chapters), and because of that, the novel seemed to end so abruptly, with no time for the reader to feel like there was resolution after the climax. Here’s what the tool looks like:
Word Count Per Scene
I try to keep my chapters at consistent lengths, but I know a lot of writers will just write a chapter to the length that feels right to them. However at the end of your novel you might have wildly inconsistent chapter lengths, from less than a thousand words to over five thousand! Fictionary gives you a simple chart to see the length of each chapter, so if you have any crazy outliers, you might consider splitting a long chapter into two. Check it out:
Characters per scene
This one’s a really important one for me, because in my novel I was working with seven main, recurring characters (they all live together in an apartment above a bookstore). Quite a few scenes had all seven of them in the living room, drinking tea and talking, and I didn’t want my readers to be confused by all these characters. I tried to build up the number of characters in a scene slowly, so my readers were able to keep track of them all. So you can see the number of characters in each chapter below:
Scenes per character
This is the complete opposite of the last one. The next step is to see how many scenes each of your characters is in. For example, obviously my main character is in every scene, because she’s the POV character for the whole novel. Some of the minor characters are only in one or two scenes. But I wanted her six friends to all feature pretty equally throughout the novel, because to me they’re all really important in her character development and growth. See what I mean:
Once you’ve worked through your main story structure, your chapter lengths and your characters, there is SO MUCH more in Fictionary to explore, and there’s no way I can go into detail about every single thing. But the good thing is you don’t need to use every feature (and I definitely didn’t!) but you can use whatever you think is relevant for your story. If you’re obsessed with details, you might absolutely love to fill in every single field in the Evaluate tool, for every single chapter, so you can really see where your novel needs work. Some examples of the fields for each chapter:
- POV Goal
- Scene opening type
- Scene closing type
- Setting – time, location, sensations
- So much more.
I didn’t want to get too bogged down in checking every single scene for every single element, but straight away I could see what was going to be important to me. I filled out everything to do with plot, especially looking into how my scenes hooked the reader, because I knew there was a lot to work on there.
Eventually I figured out which parts needed work. You can edit directly in the Fictionary app, and write notes as you’re going, and you might find this works really well for you! I think everyone has their own method as to how they do their writing and rewriting, and for me I found that editing and rewriting in the Fictionary app didn’t feel natural, because it wasn’t the same word processor I’d been using for the whole novel. So I ended up cutting and copying my edits in and out of Fictionary as I went, which worked really well for me!
I found so many features of Fictionary useful while I was editing, and I think my brain might have exploded if I tried to organise all those edits in my mind without the help of this app. If you’ve just finished writing a novel, then firstly WELL DONE, and secondly, you should totally check out the Fictionary app to help you with your edits.
If you’ve read this far, you might be interested in reading my novel! So you can find the link to my novel, Brew Books, on Wattpad right here.
You can also find out more about my journey with Wattpad in this blog post.