If you are going to successfully edit your own work, then there’s one essential step you must take before embarking on the editing process. You must stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like an editor.

Writers and editors see novels in two very different ways. For a writer, a book is an unexplored journey with wonderful characters and exciting situations just waiting to be discovered. For an editor, a novel is an unruly beast that needs to be brought into submission.

Writers see stories, conversations and worlds to be explored. Editors see rules, structures, and formats.

This course will help you to make the leap from serious writer to informed editor. At the end of the course, you will not only be a better writer but also in a position to edit your own, and other people’s, books.

Don’t Worry

One of the worries that many writers voice, when learning to become an editor, is that they don’t want their storytelling to be constrained by a tight structure and writing ‘rules’. The problem with this sentiment is that over the years there has developed an understanding regarding the best way to write novels. It is true that some writers break these rules and with great effect. The problem is that you need to know the rules you are breaking for this approach to really work.

One thing many successful writers rarely talk about is how they follow the ‘rules’ when writing a novel, and if they don’t their editor will ensure that they do.

And this is the key…

This course is not about making you a better writer (though that will be a side effect). It is about making you into an editor. It is about changing the way you think and teaching you to apply the ‘rules’ as best fits your novel.

In the first section, you will discover the building blocks of novel writing. These will provide the foundation in which you can build your editing skills. This wide overview of how a novel is constructed will give you the confidence to develop as an editor and allow you to know where changes are needed and what changes will have the biggest positive impact.

What You Will Learn

In this first part of the course, Mechanics of Novel Writing, you will learn how to think like an editor, how to see novels through critical eyes and how to apply changes that will make your novel better.

You’ll discover the building blocks of storytelling. You will be able to understand what goes into making a story, the role of themes, the importance of plot, and how scenes and acts can be used to provide structure to your storytelling. You’ll also discover why setting and genre are important elements of all novels.

Each of these key elements will be supported with detailed explanation, as well as guidance as to how they can be used in both your writing and editing. Finally, key topics will be supported with examples that you can apply directly to your own novel.

How To Approach The Course

When first studying the content of this course it is essential that you follow the lessons in order. These lessons have been built around the system we use at BubbleCow to train editors and each lesson seeks to build on the knowledge of the previous lessons. It is important that you have a firm grasp of each key topic before moving forward.

Once you have completed the course you are encouraged to return to the sections that may have given you trouble on the first pass. As with all good systems, each time you return to the teachings you will come away with a better, more in-depth understanding.

The Importance Of The Exercises

Before we move to the first lesson, I just wanted to say a little about the exercises. These have been designed to reinforce the key concepts of each lesson. They have been based on exercises we use, as editors, when professionally assessing a manuscript. You are encouraged to complete these exercises in the order they are presented.

The exercises have also been designed to be applied to a novel that you have already written (or are considering writing). Therefore, it is suggested that you create a fresh Word document and use this for each exercise. This way the information you glean from the course can be applied to your novel and then kept in a single manuscript that will aid with your writing and editing.

The final word on exercises is to say that these are not padding. They reflect the process the BubbleCow editors carry out when book editing. We tend to edit with two documents open alongside the writer’s manuscript. One is the editor’s report, in which we record the problems and solutions for the writer. The other is notes on the edit. This contains information that the editor will use to ensure the manuscript is consistent. The exercises come from the content of these two documents.

The Building Blocks

The first step to becoming an editor is to start seeing novels as objects that should conform to a set of rules. Well, ‘rules’ is probably too harsh a word, as these are more of a set of best practices that writers have developed over the years.

If you compare great novels written in the 19th century to those written today, you will see many similarities but also many differences. Yes, Moby Dick has one of the greatest opening lines ever written, but it also contains a non-fiction chapter on whether a whale is a fish or mammal (spoiler – it is a mammal though Melville will try to convince you otherwise.).

Over time writers and readers have grown more sophisticated in their understanding of how stories should be told. You will discover that many of the fundamentals were put in place as early as ancient Greek literature but many other storytelling tools have developed and mutated in the past twenty or so years.

The result is that as both a writer and editor you need to be using the most modern, most effective tools when telling and editing your story. It is true that you can tell a story without these rules but if you want the best results it is wise to follow these best practices.

The first step is to learn to take a bird’s eye view of a novel. This is always the start point for any good editor. In the following sections of this course, you will learn how to see the book from a wider, more structural, viewpoint. You will discover the key building blocks and how these interrelate in a successful novel.

These building blocks include:

  • Story.
  • Setting.
  • Theme.
  • Plot.
  • Scene.
  • Acts.
  • Genre.

These terms represent the skeleton of your book. They are the bones upon which a novel is built. Without a firm understanding of the role of story, setting, theme, plot, scenes, acts and genre, a novel can quickly become disjointed, uninteresting and flat.

As you progress through this section you will discover each concept in turn. These have been presented in a manner that you can learn at your own pace, with each building on the last. Once you have completed this section, you will have a very clear understanding of how to see a novel from a structural viewpoint and what you need to ensure your structure is correctly presented.