Unleashing Your Internal Editor: The Big Picture

Eagle Eye, the Internal Editor

Once the first draft is complete, it’s time to let the Internal Editor have some fun.

When I sent the requested full to my agent, she offered me representation, which was thrilling and sent my confidence soaring. My high lasted six weeks. I then received my first Revision Notes, and reality returned.

I had to perform major surgery. That’s a nice way of saying I had to rewrite 3/4ths of my story.

Part of the process was examining what worked, what didn’t, and how I could incorporate the needed changes. I printed out a hard copy, and my Internal Editor and I embarked on an editing adventure.

Eagle Eye and I began by looking at the big picture. This edit goes by many names: substantive, developmental, content, or heavy. I prefer to call it a macro edit.

13 Things to Look for During a Macro Edit

Plot ~ Is the setup or premise big enough to sustain a novel-length story? Do the turning points and black moment come at the appropriate points?

Goals ~ Is it clear what the hero and heroine plan to accomplish?

Motivation ~ Do the hero and heroine have clearly stated reasons for wanting to achieve their goals.

Conflict ~ Is there a strong enough reason to keep the hero and heroine apart until the end of the story?

Pacing ~ Does the story move along, or are there parts that are slow?

Beginning ~ Does the opening of the story have a strong hook that will pull the reader in?

Resolution ~ Does the end come at the right time? Is it rushed? Is it satisfying?

Scenes ~ Are there at least two reasons for each scene? Does each scene advance the plot?

Flow ~ Does the order of the chapters and scenes make sense?

Characterization ~ Are my characters likable? Are they sympathetic?

Believability ~ Are the situations the characters face, the actions they take, and the choices they make believable?

Setting ~ Are there enough descriptions to give the reader a feel for the setting? This is especially important in a historical or a story set in another world.

Sensory Detail ~ Are all the senses used: sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste?

* * *

What other elements do you look for when you’re performing a macro edit?

Which of the items listed above do you consider to be your strengths?


About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curvesโ„ข and reading.
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22 Responses to Unleashing Your Internal Editor: The Big Picture

  1. Martina Bedregal Calderรณn says:

    Awww, if I’d start to think about all these mentioned things, then it would take away the good feeling and the satisfaction and the freedom I feel when I write.

    But as I said on another topic – my intention was never to sell books of my poetry or stories. So I better keep my mouth shut…lol.

  2. Jessica says:

    Hmmm, I think I do well with scenes and sensory. Characterization isn’t always my strong suit though. lol I have no clue about my pacing.
    I envy your ability to take a big look at your stuff. I have trouble organizing my mind that way, I think.
    Thanks for sharing, Keli! I’ll try to keep these points in mind for my next edit.

  3. Those are all great points. I’ve had to learn not to be afraid to cut, cut, cut.

  4. Keli Gwyn says:

    Martina and Jessie, looking at the big picture and analyzing each element of our stories can be tough at times. Believe me, I shed some tears during those two years I lived in Revision Land. However, I’ve learned that being willing to identify my story’s weaknesses and make repairs can push a writer to take her story to new heights. I’m far happier with the story that resulted from my hard work and am actually looking forward to the Revision Notes from my editor, which will help me make it that much better.

    The way I see it, the joyful stage is the pouring forth of the rough draft. Editing, though, can be rewarding in it’s own way. And, for a diva of details like me, it can actually be fun. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I read a great post this morning about doing those things we writers don’t want to do. For some that will be editing. For others plotting. For me it’s writing a query or proposal. This post is worth the time it takes to click over and read: Eat Your Lima Beans: The Importance of Becoming the Writer You Aren’t.

  5. Susan Mason says:


    Thanks for this great list. I’m in draft mode for one ms and in the ‘macro’ revision for another. It’s tough to let go of certain elements of your story and dream up something new.

    How did you come up with the new ‘3/4’ of your book? Did your agent help or did she leave you to figure it out alone?


    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Sue, my agent gave me some big picture issues that weren’t working in the version of the story she read, and then I was on my own to plot a new story. She would have talked things over with me had I asked, but I forced myself to learn how to plot. I still ended up with a sagging middle that my two CPs caught, and I had to fix that before sending the new version of the story to my agent.

      In my post Revision Notes, I talked about what was in them.

      I wish you well as you plot your new story and work on your revisions of the other.

  6. Hi Keli! : ) Since you did such a nice job with this list, I’d be interested to hear how you define “conflict” for non-romance fiction.

  7. Wendy says:

    What a power list! Right now I’m writing #6 while editing #5. I’m going to have to get black belt on #5. I already rewrote the first chapter. The thing is ugly, but it’s gonna need to take a bruising before it heals up, that’s for sure.

    Being in love with #6 helps the process with #5.
    ~ Wendy

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wishing you well on the editing of #5 and much joy on the writing of #6, Wendy. I feel certain you’ll have that first chapter whipped into shape in no time.

  8. Yes, the high is short-lived, isn’t it?

    This is an excellent list, and most apply to nf writing as well. I think my strengths are characterization, believability, and ending. I love to tie the ending in with the beginning, and leave my readers something to think about.

    • Keli Gwyn says:

      I hadn’t thought about editing non-fiction, Jeanette, but I can see that many of the items on the list would apply. In fact, I’ve read a number of posts about how the best non-fiction incorporates elements of fiction. Stories are what capture readers of any book.

  9. This is awesome! I’m totally bookmarking it!

  10. candidkerry says:

    Once again, THANK YOU, thank you, Keli! (And I don’t use caps lightly ๐Ÿ™‚ )

    I’m printing out your above list and putting it in my writing folder. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ll using it as a reminder/guideline to follow. What a handy list of questions to cross-check my writing with.

    I recently had a good friend read my manuscript. Through her helpful edits I realize I’m an adjective and adverb-happy writer, so I’m learning to write tighter and more straightforward. Each noun doesn’t need two adjectives and not everything has to be in its place. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Thanks so much, as always!


    • Keli Gwyn says:

      Wow, Kerry! You made my day with your kind words.

      I hear you on those adjectives and adverbs that like to sneak into our stories. Happens to me all the time. I had to remove “just” in the sentence above. ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Much to consider while editing. ๐Ÿ™‚ Thank you for sharing this comprehensive list. Blessings to you, Keli…

  12. Cindy R. Wilson says:

    Good list! I am struggling with scenes right now, knowing which to cut, and which serve a bigger purpose. I really enjoy making characters believable and sympathetic and I think that’s one of my strengths. I’m going to keep your points in mind as I edit my story. Thanks!

  13. Jill Kemerer says:

    My list is very similar to yours. I also try to keep an eye out for possible unfinished story threads. I’d say my strong suit is logical plot progression. My weakest area tends to be the the actual words–I have a problem with repetition!

  14. Carla Gade says:

    I have a list like this. Setting and hooks are strengths of mine. Pacing is always rather tricky for me. It’s hard work to juggle all of these things isn’t it? I haven’t yet received my editor revisions…am bracing myself!

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