How many rounds of editing does a book need?

More than you’d think – different types of editing

When I started writing a novel, I thought editing meant finessing the awful first draft. I imagined it was like tidying a house before guests arrive, getting it in a fit state to be seen by others. To me this involved polishing sentences; adding texture to the story; checking for consistency in names/ dates/descriptions; fixing grammar and typos. What I didn’t realise was that the first draft is rarely the foundation you can build upon. Yes, I might have rounded characters, know their wants and needs, and ensured the plot hits the key beat points, but somehow it’s not gelling terribly well. There are plot holes, the protagonist is not how I imagined her to be, by the end of the book I’ve lost her voice so she comes across as someone entirely different…

There are 101 reasons why it might not work, but the next stage is to fix it.

Every author has their own approach. I find it easiest to plan out the key steps in the story, but others prefer to write first and see what develops. Generally in the early editing rounds I ask trusted writer friends to read the manuscript and be brutal in their feedback. When I’m happy with the next iteration(s) I share the book with my agent for her comments. Another round of changes follow. When we’re happy with the manuscript, it will be sent to my editor for her review. She will have her own ideas about what works and what doesn’t and so I move into a further round of structural edits. Following the editor’s approval, there will still be line edits, then proofing before the book goes to print.

It’s impossible to say how many rounds of edits a writer will go through, or how long it will take – a lot depends on the genre and the experience of the writer. The photo gives you an idea how many significant edits there were before Her Little Secret reached the final draft!

If you’re interested in the different stages of editing there is a lot of helpful information online. A clear explanation can be found here:

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