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Ceramic Clay

Guild of Scene Crafters

Your structure and character arcs are in place, but your scenes need to be smoothed out and strengthened. If this sounds like where your novel is at, this guild is where you belong.

Editing Roadmap

It's hard to go on a quest without a map. So, here's your map to help start you on your editing journey, Crafters. 

In May, you should be at 3 Distance while you prepare and gather your supplies (the recommended list is below).


When you actually set out on your journey in June, you'll be at 4 Substantive Edit.


So gather your courage, Crafters! It's time to start on your substantive quest.

Editing Process_edited.jpg

Substantive Editing Basics

Focus: Scene-Level Edits

When working on a substantive edit, it's all about scene-level issues. Turn off your inner Grammarian and focus on your characters' arcs, plot, and pacing for each individual scene.

Let It Rest a.k.a. Distance

The most important step you can take to prepare for any edit is to put your story in a box and forget it for as long as you can. Create distance between you and your book. Don't look at it until it's time to edit it. 

Recommended Supplies

  • New copy of your novel (computer is fine)

  • Index cards (multiple colors)

  • List of chapters or scenes (eventually)

Substantive Editing Steps

  1. Prep: Distance. I really can't stress this enough. Give yourself as much time as possible between when you last looked at your book and when you start editing.

  2. Prep: Gather your supplies. You want to make sure that you have whatever you need at hand whenever you sit down to edit.

  3. Create a scene list from memory. You can create a quick list on a sheet of paper and then fill out index cards with pertinent information (see video) or go straight to index cards. Editor's choice.  

  4. Compare your list to the ToC or scene list. Print your list of scenes from your word processor, and compare your memory list to the actual list. Note which scenes are missing. Those are the ones you'll tackle first. Your choices are to cut, combine, or rework these scenes.

  5. Strengthen your scenes. Make sure that your scenes accomplish more than one thing or have more than one payoff.

  6. Create your editing plan. On your printed scene/chapter list, you will make a to-do list of what needs to be altered in each scene, if the scene is being removed or moved, or if scenes need to be added. Also, take note of which structural beats need to be added or rearranged.

  7. Implement your editing plan. Once your plan is done, it's time to put the plan into action. The great thing about having the plan is you don't have to reread over and over: you can just do the edit and check it off your list (saving your objectivity).

  8. Smooth-it-out read-through. After you've completed the editing plan, read through your novel to smooth out the scene/chapter transitions and address the 3 must-haves and world-building issues.

3 Substantive Editing Must-Haves

New World



Check your main character’s arc.

  • Does this scene cause my character to grow or regress in some way?

  • Has my character gained knowledge? Or are your readers getting information the MC doesn’t have?

  • How does this scene serve my character?

  • What obstacles are in my character’s way?



Do your scenes support your overall plot?

  • Are your scenes memorable?

  • Are they pulling their weight? (More than one payoff)

  • Is there a conflict?

Running Group



Where’s the lag?

  • Pay attention to which scenes are memorable and aren’t.

  • What paragraphs are you skimming? Areas that leave you breathless?

  • Problem areas: Paragraphs too big? Infodumping? Lack of conflict? Are things too fast? Too much dialogue? Too little?



Make sure you spot inconsistencies in world-building at the scene-level.

  • Are those beefy paragraphs infodumping?

  • If you made a big WB change during developmental editing, how does that affect your scenes?

  • Do you need to slow down and weave in WB to your scenes?


Video Tutorials

Below, you'll find a series of videos to help you on your journey as Story Weavers (click here for YouTube playlist). Here is the order to watch them.

  1. Welcome

  2. How To

  3. Goal Setting

  4. Fictionary (Optional)

  5. Leveraging Editing Software (Optional)

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