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The Final Edit - Walter Shillington's Author's Workshop

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The final edit, performed on the completed novel, is composed of two phases.  In phase one the author makes his final revision.  Phase two is the responsibility of the editor who will read over the manuscript and suggest changes.

You cannot risk publishing without the services of an outside editor.  If you self-edit, mistakes will remain undetected.  Even if you read over the material a dozen times, errors will be missed because the mind automatically translates what is written into what it expects to see.  

The best option is to hire the services of a firm which specializes in such work.  While expensive, this would ensure the novel is well prepared for publication.  

If you cannot afford this, find someone who has a good grasp of English; perhaps a school teacher or a university graduate who majored in English.  Editing a novel involves a great deal of work so be sure to offer them whatever you can afford.

The least attractive option is to ask an untrained friend or relative.  While they may do their best, the final result might not meet the standard expected by your readers. Never-the-less, a second set of eyes will improve your chance of success.   


The first pass is called structural editing.  It focuses on structure, pacing, plotline and characterization.  The editor reads through the novel, making notes of any perceived weakness and providing suggestions intended to improve your work. It is the writer’s responsibility to follow through on these suggestions.  Below are listed common errors:

Timeline – Mary meets Jeff at the bar on Wednesday.  The problem is, earlier we were told Mary was in Europe and not due to return until Friday.  Later we are told that she does return on Friday.

Characterization – Early in the book, Mike is described as meek and ineffectual.  Halfway through the novel he starts a bar-fight and beats up the head bouncer.

Forgotten Plotline – In chapter two, Susan and John discover that Blain is not Jeff’s real father.  This is important because Blain is dying of cancer and Susan, Blain’s real daughter, stands to inherit everything.  Susan and John gloat.  In chapter six, Blain dies. There is no mention of Jeff not being Blain’s son, and he and Susan share the inheritance.   

Impossible Action - A sniper is crouching by the railway tracks, in wait for John, as a long, noisy train passes by.  The sniper is equipped with a 45 Colt Revolver.  John, who wears a Kevlar vest, cautiously makes his way up the path.  The sniper hears a snap as John steps on a piece of dry wood one hundred yards away.  He carefully aims and fires.  John, shot in the chest, screams and dies.  The editor will have fun with this!

The editor’s second pass is called copy-editing.  The manuscript is read over, word for word, looking for spelling errors, misused punctuation, typos and grammatical mistakes.  These problems will be noted and sent to the author for correction.  Common errors are listed below:

Wrong Word – We our graduates of Columbia University.  

Physical Description – Mary is a petite redhead.  In chapter seven, someone makes a dumb blonde joke about her.

Spelling Error – As a favour, I hooked up Mary’s cieling fan.  

Typo – We had to ran fast to make it to the bus stop on time.

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