In Section 1, you discovered that the key to becoming an effective self-editor was to start to see the book from a more structural viewpoint. In Section 2, we focused on Classical Design and the importance of the three act structure. In this section, we take one step closer to your book and look, in-depth, at the elements of a good novel.

The aim of this section is for you to become comfortable with the key elements of a novel and to be able to identify and use these correctly.

This unit, though simplistic at first glance, is an essential part to becoming an effective editor. Only by becoming aware of these elements, and how they are used and manipulated, can you take the leap to the upcoming units.

The elements to be addressed in this unit are:

  • Viewpoint.
  • Voice.
  • Dialogue.
  • Description.

Once you have completed this section, you will be able to see your novel in a more pragmatic manner. You’ll be able to separate your novel into its key elements and understand the changes that are required to lift each element to the next level. You will also be in a place that you can better understand the future concepts of showing, not telling and characterization.


Viewpoint is the manner in which a novel is written. In this section, you’ll begin by gaining an understanding of the different types of viewpoint. These will include first and third person viewpoints, though second will be considered briefly.

You will learn to identify and use the first person viewpoint. You’ll see an example of a great novel written in this viewpoint and why they work so well. You’ll also consider the strengths and weaknesses of first person writing.

Next, you’ll consider third person viewpoints. Once again, you’ll see a great example of the viewpoint in action and learn why it works so well. You will also discover the strengths and weaknesses of third person writing.


Writers, reviewers, and readers are often quick to talk about a writer’s voice, but this isdifficult to define aspect of writing. In this section, you will discover what is meant by ‘voice’ and how this impacts on your own writing.

You will also discover that each writer has a distinct voice, whether they intend to or not. A writer’s voice often makes a novel unique and allows it to stand out from the crowd. You’ll find out that writers with controlled and distinct voices often create work that is identifiable as their own, simply from the way a book reads and sounds.

One aspect of voice, that you’ll come to understand, is that it is often defined by your viewpoint AND your characters. Part of your voice is the way character’s speak and interact with the world. You’ll discover that a good editor is able to see this and influence a novel’s voice by the words of the characters.

You will also find out that voice is often more important than a writer first believes. The style of your voice will have an influence on your readers and will, to some extent, either attract them to, or put them off, your story. You’ll discover that the relationship between voice and readership are intertwined.

Finally, you’ll address the development of voice in your own work. You’ll see that voice can’t be taught and is a natural reflection of you and your characters. However, a voice can be developed. You’ll see that it is an ongoing process that can often spread across a number of novels.


Dialogue is the building block of any novel and as we shall see from the section talking about showing, not telling, it is the best way to pass the plot to the reader. However, before we delve into the technical aspects of storytelling it is best to learn how to think about dialogue from a technical viewpoint.

In this section, you’ll discover what is considered dialogue and how it is best presented. In addition, you’ll briefly consider the difference between internal and external dialogue.

In the final part of this section, you’ll learn about beats. You’ll discover that beats are the sections of description between speech and how these can be used to control a novel’s narrative. You’ll also discover the ‘best practice’ for beats and how they can provide structure to characterization.


In combination with dialogue, description is the second fundamental element to writing a novel. If dialogue is considered the tool for passing the story, description is the tool for creating your world.

In this section, you will learn the difference between description and narrative summary and why it is essential to separate the two. You’ll also learn when to write description and how much to use. In addition, you’ll address the four types of description and see how each should be used.

You’ll learn about location description and why it is essential in painting a picture in your reader’s mind. You’ll find out why character description is essential. You’ll also address action description and see how this can be used to control the pace of your story. Finally, you’ll look at emotional description and see why this is so essential.