How to Edit a Chapter

The secret every one of us learns after many years of writing is that writing is not just about that flash of inspiration. It is mostly about re-writing and editing. Lots of it. When editing your chapters, I suggest the following: Things to Do Check List

  • Read it aloud and fix any sentence that sounds stilted.
  • Check your dialogue. Is it the proper vernacular of the characters you are writing about? Is it realistic? Again, read it aloud to make sure it flows and does not seem stodgy.
  • Check the opening line and the closing line of the chapter. They should hook your reader and entice them to continue turning the pages. The death knell (to me) is any chapter that begins or closes with the main character either going to bed or getting up or worse, descriptions of the scenery, weather or of the character. Long-winding paragraphs describing anything about the character, the story or the setting generally tends to be coma-inducing.
  • Speaking of description, check and make sure that they do not run too long. Descriptions or setting should be unobtrusive and slipped in unnoticed with the action.
  • Make sure your chapters are not too long or too short. Look for the natural break and leave your reader hanging.
  • Check your spelling.
  • Check your verb tense. Is it consistent throughout?
  • Watch your crutch words–we all have them (and they change constantly–your crutch word today may not be your crutch word a month from now); be vigilant.
  • Highlight all your adverbs and eliminate most of them. Take no prisoners.
  • Eliminate any scene that does not further the plot. Does every scene and every bit of dialogue advance the story? If not, then drop it.
  • Check every sentence. Is there a better way to write it? Is it too superfluous? Can it be pared down?

If you can do all these you are well on your way to a shiny chapter.

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About Michele Brouder

After living for seven years in Ireland, former Buffalonian, Michele Brouder now calls Florida home. Her first book, a YA paranormal, is due to be published sometime in 2014 for Harlequin E, Harlequin’s new digital format. Learn more from her contributor page.


  1. says

    I definitely agree about starting (or ending) with waking up, going to bed, or the weather. Actually, there’s a whole writing contest surrounding that “It was a dark and stormy night…” type of opening, which can be pretty hilarious, but only because it’s a parody of bad writing!

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