Update on Editing Epic Fantasy Novel Scattered Stones

EditingLate last week, I completed the first serious edit on Scattered Stones, the second book in The Castle Keepers series.

First, let me define serious. The dozen or so edits that occurred before focussed on over-all story, aligning the characters and the plots, and removing unnecessary material that would never play into future books. I edited large sections at a time, but never from start to finish, and I didn’t focus on each particular sentence. Non-serious edits are quicker. I can do a page every five minutes or so.

My serious edit focussed on each sentence individually and at times, it took an hour to do a page. It looked at every verb and weighed it to see if it was the right one, the strongest one for the situation. If there were two verbs in a sentence, I evaluated them both to see if they were necessary. The weaker one—if unneeded—was removed, shortening and tightening the sentence.

MOCK 01 Front Cover Scattered StonesMy goal with this edit was to bring the story down to 150,000 words. I started with 161,435 and ended with 149,358 for a difference of 12,077. So that goal was accomplished.

With this edit, I also targeted ‘was’ words to see if I could move a sentence from passive to active. There were 2,199 ‘was’ words when I started and 1,106 in the end. So I cut them in half with little effort. Usually I put ‘was’ in the search bar but this time, I simply saw them in a sentence as I edited and worked them off the page.

After years of dealing with ‘was’ words, it has become much easier to not include them in the first place, so there is less to work with later. ‘Were’ and ‘that’ words are similar. When I finished editing, I had 430 (originally 565) ‘were’ words and 646 (originally 839) ‘that’ words.

I ran MS Word’s Spelling & Grammar software and found a few more things I missed. At the end, I received the Flesch Reading Ease (66.2) and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (6.2) score.


The Flesch readability score uses sentence length (number of words per sentence) and the number of syllables per word in an equation to calculate the reading ease.

  • 90 to 100 – 5th grade – Very easy, understood by an average 11-year-old
  • 80 to 90 – 6th grade – Easy to read. Conversational English for consumers
  • 70 to 80 – 7th grade – Fairly easy to read
  • 60 to 70 – 8th & 9th grade – Plain English. Easily understood by an average 13 to 15 year old
  • 50 to 60 – 10th to 12th grade – Fairly difficult to read
  • 30 to 50 – college – Difficult to read
  • 0 to 30 – college graduate – Very difficult to read.

Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: This test rates text on a US school grade level. For example, a score of 8.0 means an eighth grader can understand the document.

This indicates Scattered Stones’ score of 66.2 falls in the standard ease of reading for a young teenager—exactly where I want to be. Did you know most of Jane Austin’s novels score around the same or easier?

Reader’s Digest has a readability score of 65, while Time magazine has a 52 score. Moby Dick sits at 57.9.

Anyone who has a grade six reading level will be able to read my book. Why is that important? Because the potential audience is much larger than if only someone with a grade ten reading level could read it.

Check your writing scores here.

Who Do I Write Like?

In a moment of curiosity, I took the first two chapters and plugged them into the software at I Write Like to see which famous writer I write like. Although I don’t believe I use the same language style as J. R. R. Tolkien, obviously we use similar words: dwarf, sword, horse, castle, magic, elf.

So my results were, I write like Tolkien. We both write traditional fantasy.

Man or Woman

Playing once again (you need to play to break up the work load), I entered those same two chapters in the software at Hacker Factor – Gender Guesser. That’s right, the software analyses writing and takes a guess at whether it was written by a male or female based on word choices and style.

There are two gauges they use: informal and formal. Fiction falls into the informal class.

Apparently, I use more manly words than womanly words. Out of 6,214 words, 63.13% are words a man would write. Who knew?

Gender Guesser


Now back to work. The next step in my editing process is printing the 255 pages and reading them on paper.

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9 thoughts on “Update on Editing Epic Fantasy Novel Scattered Stones

  1. Wow this was really interesting, I’m always doing word searches and I might go through again and double check ‘was’. So much effort evident in this post, congrats on editing such a mammoth manuscript! Mines tiny in comparison ☺️


    • Thank you, Millie. This novel is my biggest project to date. I’m not sure how long book 3 will be because I’m only seven chapters in.

      I found focussing on one word in a search really brings home the number of times that word is used. And when they are highlighted on screen, you can instantly see how many times you have used it on half a page (that’s how my MS Word manuscript is set–to see only half a page at a given time).

      When I first searched for ‘was’ in a manuscript five years ago, I was shocked at the number of times I relied on that word to carry the story.


    • Thank you, David. That is what it is: a labour of love. I love this world, this story, these characters. And I think a writer must have this love to endure the hours (years) of writing, revising and editing. If you don’t love the story when you begin, you’ll hate it (and possibly give up) by the time the editing process ends.


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