Editing Your Novel's Structure: Tips, Tricks, and Checklists to Get You From Start to Finish

Before it’s time to check for commas and iron out passive voice, fiction writers need to know that their story is strong. Are your beta readers not finishing? Do they have multiple, conflicting complaints? When you ask them questions about how they experience your story, do they give lukewarm responses? Or have you not even asked anyone to read your story, wondering if it’s ready?

If any of the above is true, you may need to refine the structure of your story. What is structure you ask?  Structure is what holds a story together. Does the character arc entrance the reader? Is the world building comprehensive and believable? These questions and more have to be answered by all of us as we turn our drafts into books. 

In this concise handbook, complete with checklists for each section, let a veteran writer walk you through the process of self-assessing your novel, from characters to pacing with lots of compassion and a dash of humor. In easy to follow directions and using adaptable strategies, she shows you how to check yourself for plot holes, settle timeline confusion, and snap character arcs into place. 

Use this handbook for quick help and quick self-editing checklists on:

- Characters and Character Arcs.
- Plot.
- Backstory.
- Point of View.
- A detailed explanation of nearly free self-editing tools and how to apply them to your book to find your own structural problems.
- Beginnings and Ends.
- Editing for sensitive and specialized subject matter.
- Helpful tips on choosing beta readers, when to seek an editor, and a sample questionnaire to give to your first readers. 

Grab your copy of Edit Your Novel’s Structure today! Now is the time to finish that draft and get your story out into the world.

Purchase Links
UK - https://www.amazon.co.uk/Editing-Your-Novels-Structure-Checklists-ebook/dp/B08PSP82ZQ

US - https://www.amazon.com/Editing-Your-Novels-Structure-Checklists-ebook/dp/B08PSP82ZQ

Intro and Excerpt
Part of learning how to write a book is like hearing about a monolith in the wilderness and deciding to go find it for oneself. Its this goal in the middle of a vast land, no roads, no paths. Many plot with compass and coordinates to reach the monolith. Without a marked out path, they make their way through the landscape, knowing the direction but not the terrain. They approach from every angle, each making their own path, maybe getting stuck at a fissure in the earth, or having to make a detour around an outcropping of rock they cant scale.

 This is literally the verbal image described by a photographer who hiked out in the fall of 2020 to the monolith discovered in Utah, U.S.A. Trackless wilderness filled with people, crawling like ants towards one point, excited to reach the new discovery. Which, ironically, disappeared within days, reportedly removed by a group who appears to have been protecting the environment. Leave no trace,” the men are reported to have said to witnesses as they took the pieces away. 

 Writing a book, though, need not destroy any wilderness. We can make our own tracks as we wish, finding our own voice and methods as we travel towards that monolith of a goal, holding our own work, our story in our hands and having others read it. 

 Each journey is unique, as I explore in the following extract from an early section in my book, Editing Your Novels Structure: Tips, Tricks and Checklists to Get Your from Start to Finish.  

Most of us start writing a book by sitting down and writing Chapter 1.” Maybe we have some plans and notes but writing is writing and we start there, putting creative prose on the page. 

This is called Discovery Writing. Its also known as Pantsing, the verb form of Writing by the Seat of Your Pants.” This is how I started and how most writers Ive come across write early on. Some very well-established and successful writers, including Stephen King, continue to do this for their entire careers. 

 On the opposite end of the writer spectrum are Planners. They create beats or outlines, have character sheets fully filled out, and know their world inside and out before they start writing. 

From personal experience, Id say most of us fall somewhere in between. My first five or so books were pure discovery writing. As I wrote longer books and fleshed out my worlds more thoroughly, I morphed into a planner with discovery tendencies. Ive tried pure plotting and it doesnt work for me. As you spend more time writing and finishing books, youll find what allows you to create your best world and, most importantly, finish your stories. 

 Among authors who publish regularly, most seem to lean toward being plotters. As you go through this handbook, you may have a few aha” moments that let you figure out why. Ill try to answer the question, albeit indirectly, but theres no replacement for feeling it in your bones and really knowing for yourself. 

When we start, most of us dont really know where we are going. We havent swallowed dozens of craft books and manuals on three or five act structures yet. Were still feeling our way toward our voice and figuring out what rings true for us. This is part of the journey. It requires space. Let yourself have it. 

 When youve written yourself to the end, apply everything in this handbook. Discovery writing often takes us on small, interesting side roads, skips over entire important events, and repeats problems that arent needed. What you find to be in need of attention in your first draft will be unique to you. 

 Discovery writing can lead to a lack of solid plot and cohesive arcs in the first draft. Thats not something to be worried about. If it annoys you, remember that discovery writers with years of experience will find themselves naturally writing with more and more structure baked into their first drafts as their skills develop. Its instinct mixed with knowledge and takes time to develop. Stay with it and it will come. Personally, Ive been writing for over twenty years. Growth never ends and mastery requires years of practice.

 Until youve reached a high level of experience, the questions and considerations placed at the end of each section of this handbook will be important. Use them liberally and let yourself ponder the answers as necessary. Not all questions posed in the following pages can be answered quickly. 

 For those of you who already use plotting, you may need less of what follows, but your first draft will still need a structural pass during the editing process. Each step remains relevant. I have over fifteen full books, published and unpublished, under my belt, and I always step back after plotting and writing the first draft to make sure that the structure I baked into the outline survived contact with the prose.

Author Bio

Bethany Tucker is an author and editor located near Seattle, U.S.A. Story has always been a part of her life. With over twenty years of writing and teaching experience, she’s more than ready to take your hand and pull back the curtain on writing craft and mindset. Last year she edited over a million words for aspiring authors. Her YA fantasy series Adelaide is published wide under the pen name Mustang Rabbit and her dark epic fantasy is releasing in 2021 under Ciara Darren. You can find more about her services for authors at TheArtandScienceofWords.com. 

Social Media Links –   theartandscienceofwords.com, mustangrabbit.com