5 Steps to Performing Major Book Surgery

When you think of editing a book, you normally think of changing a word here and there, cutting out useless adjectives, and maybe writing some extra dialogue to make some concept clearer. But sometimes, you need something a bit more ... drastic.

Maybe some scenes need to be switched around. Maybe there needs to be an extra major character or three. Maybe a subplot needs to be added. Or maybe the whole middle section needs to be rewritten. And you know what they say about desperate times -- they call for desperate measures.

And by desperate measures, I mean BOOK SURGERY!

I could make a joke about colon surgery here, but I won't.

Don't worry -- book surgery is a LOT safer than human surgery, and it's a very simple five-step process. Grab your scalpel and your scrubs, and let's get started!

1. Get your life insurance policy in place.

Before implementing major edits, you must, must, MUST save a copy of your book's file first. Call it "my book old version" or something like that, so you don't get it confused with the file you will be performing surgery on. That way, if something goes terribly wrong, you will have a backup.

Like I said, book surgery is much safer than human surgery.

2. Do an MRI scan of the patient.

Write down a list of your planned edits. Be sure to include the purpose for these edits, any repercussions the edits might have (e.g. if you're adding a new character, how will that change the rest of the book?) , and which chapter(s) are being edited. Don't just dive in willy-nilly -- be organized!

3. Open up the patient.

Open your book file and put notes in the places where your edits are going to go. Put these in a different color and/or font to your main text, so you don't get confused. If you're adding a new scene, putting several line breaks between the old scenes and the new can be helpful for keeping things separated.

4. Operate!

Go for it! Those new scenes, new characters, swapped passages -- whatever it is, do it! Don't be scared -- remember, you have that saved copy in case things go wrong (you DID save a copy, didn't you? DIDN'T YOU????).

Performing the operation can be quite scary, but you MUST force yourself to do it. It's for the best. Just think about how amazing your book will be when you're done, and push through it.

5. Stitch up and clean up.

Whew! That was intense.

Whatever major edits you've done, it's highly likely that there will now be continuity issues in your book, especially if you swapped chapters or scenes around. Read through your manuscript and weed out these issues. Then, get someone else to read through your manuscript to catch anything you might have missed.

Did it go well? Perfect! Now, if you like, you can throw away your life insurance policy ... I mean, the old copy of your book (don't throw away your actual life insurance policy under any circumstances). You might want to keep it, just in case, but if the operation was a success then you don't really need it.

Did it go badly? Never mind -- it's all a learning curve, and at least you know that your proposed edits didn't work. Delete your new version and go back to your old copy. Then try again.

Don't settle for an incomplete draft. Make your book amazing.

Whatever it takes.

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