The Difference between Revising and Editing Your Manuscript

How many drafts of a book or novel do you need to write before it’s considered complete? Every writer has had to ponder this question at least once. And for a perfectly good reason; novel writing is a multi-step process that calls for a draft after another, changes here and there. This brings us to the subject of this article: revising vs. editing, two writing terminologies that are often used interchangeably.

The Difference between Revising and Editing Your Manuscript

So what’s the difference between the two?

Let’s start off with revising.

Revising a manuscript, in technical terms, entails the process of changing the content (and not necessarily the words themselves) of your novel. Some aspects of your story that might need revising include:

  • The hook: this is the event or nugget of the story, typically in the first chapter, intended to catch the attention of the reader. It creates traction that “hooks” the reader to the story. That said, you need to ensure that your novel has a top-notch hook. That’s why you need to revise it until it’s dead right on point.
  • Plot Holes: these are glaring mistakes or missing elements in the plot or story. Patching plot holes is a crucial part of revising a manuscript.
  • Character Arcs: Readers need to see your characters grow, fail, succeed, and whatnot. If something is amiss in your characters arcs, your story will feel blunt; something thorough revision can remedy.
  • Purpose: Every aspect of your novel has a purpose. Any scene, plot, character or element that doesn’t add substance to your story or characters should be revised or removed.
  • Foreshadowing: This aspect indicates what’s to come later. Consider revising your manuscript to tighten the foreshadowing.
  • Consistency: The value of continuity and coherence to your novel is absolute. When revising your manuscript, watch out for consistency in descriptions, motifs, themes, tone, POVs, and character personalities.

The BEST way to get this process done is a good old-fashioned read through. I’m not talking where you sit at your computer and read it, changing a few words here and there. Trust me, you will find a lot more mistakes if you print the sucker off onto A4 paper with double-spaced lines (room for all your notes) and a wide margin. I personally use a website called (this is a UK website who will print and spiral bind this for me and then I can get down to my first read through. Another thing you can do is grab another notebook and write down your notes that way on things like continuity checks.

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What About Editing Your Manuscript?

On the other hand, editing your manuscript involves altering the structure of writing or the actual wording. These, often, are only minor changes that include grammar, spelling, sentence structure or formatting, clarity, and punctuation. But there are different types of editing that can be done to your manuscript.

Developmental edits are usually focused on your plot, character arcs and development, world building, plot holes, flat dialogue, clichéd or generic characterization and more. It helps with the structure of your story rather than the writing itself.

In a copy edit, you will go through your manuscript line by line, on the look-out for redundancy, a flaw in the flow, and unnecessary or filler words. In a way, the overall plot or story of your novel remains the same even after all the edits. You are only rectifying mistakes you made when writing the manuscript, including typos and omissions.

The final stage of editing is Proofreading and this focuses solely on grammar and punctuation.

Revising and editing manuscripts are entirely different but related terminologies in writing. Know the difference and don’t get caught off-guard.

What’s your process? Let me know in the comments!