Self-Editing Your Novel: Convincing Characters

Over the past two weeks we’ve been posting tips on how to self-edit your novel. If you haven’t completed those steps yet, you can find the first ones here and the second here. For those of you who’ve managed to keep up, here’s our third post with more steps for you to follow.

John Seely image

When writing your novel (especially during writing challenges such as NaNoWriMo) it’s really easy to fall out of character. On those days when your heart just wasn’t in it, you might find that your narrator’s voice changed a little to match your mood. This is completely normal and is bound to happen to everyone at some point, and it’s easy enough to fix too. Whenever you read a section where your voice is slipping out of character, highlight it. Then, when you’re in the mood to write, tweak those sections a bit so they’re more consistent with your usual narration.

Now, does everything you’ve written make sense? Or have you put something nonsensical in to move the story forwards? If possible, make these plot devices believable within the world of your story. If you can’t, it’s not the end of the world, but it may make your readers question it later on. A great example of this is in Star Wars, where to destroy the Death Star it must be hit in a very specific spot. Fans ridicule this a lot, but without this slightly unrealistic weak spot the story wouldn’t have been so exciting.

Similarly, look at your character’s emotions and reactions. Is it really believable that Amelia would work with the man who killed her mother? Yes, it works well to move the story on, but it’s very unrealistic. Find a way around things like this, making sure that your character reacts in a way that makes sense.

When you’ve done that, it’s time for the less pleasant of editing duties. You need to start cutting bits out of your novel. Read through your novel, looking at each scene individually. Are there scenes that exist purely to push up the word count? Every scene you’ve written must have a purpose. It must either:

  • Develop a character
  • Move the story forwards, or
  • Give important information.

If you have sections that don’t do any of these three things, get rid of them. There’s no point in scenes that have no purpose. Don’t just think in terms of this book though. If you’re writing a series, as long as a scene is important for one of the books leave it in.


And that’s it for today. These steps might feel small to you, and it may even feel at first like there’s not much to do, but this bit of editing will take up a lot of time. Keep at it, and if you start getting bored or frustrated leave it for an hour then come back to it with fresh eyes. Don’t forget to join us again next Friday for our last few tips on self-editing your novel, but until then, happy editing!

3 thoughts on “Self-Editing Your Novel: Convincing Characters

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