Self-edit Your Novel (Part 1A)

Edit Rewrite Repeat

In this multi-post series, you’ll discover techniques and technology that will help you self-edit your novel by structuring with Story and Scene Beats.

Structure: Story & Scene Beats

Why Learn to Self-edit?

Consider these reasons to self-edit:

  • A professional edit can fix many issues, but unless you’ve hired a ghostwriter, the editor will not rewrite your story.
  • A self-edit:
    • Tightens loose structure
    • Fleshes out underdeveloped characters
    • Fills plot holes
    • Clarifies theme
    • Lowers the potential cost of a professional edit

Why Multiple Posts?

The posts will cover editing steps to enhance:

  1. Structure
  2. Characters
  3. Plot
  4. Theme

As to technology, I recommend:

And to illustrate the editing techniques, I’ll base examples on the Cozy Mystery subgenre, but the methods will work for other genres.

Balance Structural Elements

The Global Story Elements show the balance between structure, character, plot, and theme. In that same menu, the Global Story Beats blueprint outlines the structure elements. The Story Scene Beats show how those elements influence scene structure.

Structural edits require answers to several questions. For example:

  • Beats: Have you included all the global beats for your genre?
  • Scenes: Do the scene’s beats engage readers and progress story?
  • Sequencing: Are the scenes sequenced in the logical order?
  • Pacing: Does the intensity ebb and flow to a crescendo at the climax?
  • Point of View: Is the POV consistent, eliminating head-hopping?

On Amazon, you can view the page count for Kindle books. Based on researching the page length of many Cozy Mystery novels, I estimated a typical range of 200 to 300 pages. Using Publisher Rocket to identify profitable authors, I narrowed the range to 220 to 250 pages.

To see how many pages per Global Story Beat, I based a spreadsheet on three criteria:

  • 60,000 total word count target
  • 250 words per page
  • An estimated percentage for each Global Story Beat

The spreadsheet produced Target Pages and Target Words for comparison to actual Scrivener word counts.

Target and Actual Word Count
Click to Enlarge

Within Scrivener, you can set target words for each Beat. For example, the spreadsheet calculated a target of 6,000 words for the WRANGLE beat. By highlighting in Scrivener’s binder the beat and scenes, you can see the actual and target word counts in the footer bar:

Scrivener Actual and Target Word Count
Click to Enlarge


Keep in mind there are no hard and fast rules for choosing a story structure. Likewise, the number of words per Global Story Beat will vary based on estimated percentages.

Consider these recommendations:

  1. Read the best-selling novelists to discover profitable models and average book length. Pour over the reviews of their books, and pay particular attention to the consensus of what readers like and dislike for that genre.
  2. Choose and stick with a structure template that aligns with the way you prefer to write. As alternatives to the Global Story Beats, explore Save the Cat Writes A Novel by Jessica Brody, Super Structure by James Scott Bell, and Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland.
  3. Make structural edits based on your chosen template, genre conventions, and readers’ expectations, giving priority to the latter.

To learn more, visit Books for Writers and check out the Tools for Writers in the right-hand column.

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