Last week, I mentioned that I’m going to try out a new editing method and I hinted that I might take a moment to describe it for you all. It’s nothing new, per say. People have probably been editing using some variation of this method for years, but it’s new for me and it was written out in a way that just clicked, so I wanted to share it with you all, even at the risk that it might not be as groundbreaking to you as it’s felt like to me. But before I get into the glorious details of what this method really is down below, I gotta tell you how I stumbled upon it, first.
You see, this method is from the genius that is author Melissa Caruso.
I’m very, very lucky to be friends with this inspiration, in a set of circumstances that I never would have imagined happening. You see, I interned for a little over a year with her agent, the fantastic and amazing Naomi Davis.
Through Naomi, I met Melissa and even got a chance to become one of her beta readers for her wonderful series, including both The Tethered Mage and The Defiant Heir (which are both out now and if you haven’t read them yet, you should go read those books and then come back and learn how to edit your own books, because hers are not ones to miss).
But I’m seriously the lucky one, here. Since meeting Melissa, she’s been nothing but supportive, encouraging and one of the best cheerleaders out there, whenever we chat. Yet even if I didn’t know her, following her on Twitter is pretty much a no brainer if you’re a writer. Her threads of advice, personal experience and encouragement have gotten me through many a rough writing session or period of doubt.
But one such thread also caused the spark to go off in my brain and go, “Wait a second. If I edit my books like that, perhaps, just perhaps, I might just make it.”
So, ladies and gents, the secret is out. My new editing method, which I’ve dubbed the Caruso Editing Method and is complied in a list below based off of Melissa’s wonderful Twitter thread over that very topic (and being shared with you now thanks to her gracious permission). I’m so stoked to try out this out on Blood Price here in August (or perhaps July, if I clean up Artemis quick enough). Though I’ve gotten better, I’ve really been stuck in the whole “rereading my book and fixing typos and rephrasing sentences totally counts as editing” mindset. Which, I mean, don’t get me wrong, that is editing. It’s just line editing. Which should come last, after you focus on all of the more major issues and put in some serious work. And my books always need the work that should come before line edits. I just never realized what exactly that work looked like or how to break it down.
The Caruso Editing Method
- Round One: Structural Edits
- Main building blocks of the story
- Strengthening character arcs
- Weak subplots that need to be expanded, merged or cut
- Pacing: is it too fast or too slow?
- Stakes and Agency: RAISE THEM
- Logic Checks: Does each characters’ actions make sense?
- Relationships: are they compelling and do they develop?
- BETA READER ROUND
- Round Two: Digging Deeper
- Internality: Get in tune with the characters feelings and make sure we’re not only aware of them, but we’re feeling them, too
- Convenience: Remove coincidence and make sure everything happens because of actual reasons driven by the story
- Voice: make sure all the voices are solid and distinct from one another
- Clarity: what were the beta readers confused about? Clear this up.
- Page-Level Pacing: tightening rambling and amping up intensity
- Setting: making sure it’s immersive and evocative
- BETA READER ROUND (if necessary)
- Round Three: The Finesse
- Line Edits
- Polishing Touches
- Check Your Typos!
That, ladies and gentleman, is how you edit a novel.
I mean, granted, it’s one way of doing it. There is no one size fits all for writers. And sure, I haven’t tried this out yet, to see if I like it. But I sure believe that I can’t go wrong in trying this out and seeing how it goes, because it highlights all the important elements within a novel that you want to be up to shape, regardless of what stage in your career you’re in: querying, debut or ten books under your belt and counting. I haven’t been this excited to edit in quite some time, even though looking at the amount of work attached to those structural edits in the first round is probably going to feel like a punch to the throat while I’m also getting kicked in the gut simultaneously. But it’s work that needs doing, if I want my story to live amongst the greats on the bookshelves and be read by readers I want to reach.
Greats like Melissa Caruso.
So thank you, Melissa, for teaching the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years to all of us and for me to continue passing it on, through this blog post. I’m so excited to try this out and see how this style helps improve my writing. I hope, my writing family, that by sharing this, you have a little bit of guidance, too, if you’re struggling to find an editing method that works. If you already have an editing method that you love, tell me more about it in the comments! Or if you end up using this method, I’d love to hear about how it works for you and what tweaks you did to make it your own.
Let’s edit great books, fam.