Now that we’ve had some time to come up with a draft after part one of this series, today we’ll move on to part two: editing.
This is going to be another long one, so let’s begin.
I know this is everyone’s favorite part of the writing process.
Editing sucks. There’s no way to sugar-coat it. If you have the money for it, hiring a copy editor is well worth the cash. However, if you’re going into this industry on a budget (as I did), you have to edit the manuscript yourself. It takes more than one read-through as well as some know-how. Here’s how to get started.
1. Take a break from your manuscript
This is really important and something I find a lot of authors neglect. We’ve been staring at this work for days, months, maybe even years. Our inner editors haven’t shut up about it from the opening sentence. Every piece of dialogue and city description we’ve memorized like the back of our hands. The best way to see it with a fresh pair of eyes is to give it a few weeks (sometimes even months) before going back. Work on another story idea, visit friends and assure them you’re still alive, take up a new hobby for a little bit. Anything you can do to take your mind off of your story can only help.
2. Have an arsenal of reference information ready
Since we’re taking the self-editing path, it’s imperative that we know the basics of grammar, spelling, and punctuation in order for our manuscript to look professional. If I’m not sure about a sentence, I load up Google and ask. A few websites I have saved in a writing folder are:
Punctuation by The Purdue OWL
Education First: Grammar Guide
Also at the suggestion of a fellow author, I downloaded Grammarly, which can be used in nearly any word program as well as in your browser. I use the free version, which catches a fair amount of word usage errors as well as punctuation slips. Be sure to read through the references before jumping back into editing, just so they’re fresh on the mind.
3. Be Ruthless
This is where taking time away from the story really helps. You must be able to look at it with an objective eye. I like to go through it at LEAST three times. I know I edited Resonance more than eleven times. The first time through, don’t line edit. Just read it and mark wherever you’re taken out of the story. If a sentence seems redundant, delete it. If you’re wondering why scenes appear in that order, your readers will, too. I didn’t look at what I’d written for Resonance for almost two years. Everything from Echo onwards I trashed. I go into more detail for those interested in my Post Mortem write-up but the important part here is that I deleted and re-wrote 25,000 words. That’s over half my novel. I tried to save any pieces I could, but re-reading it, it had to go.
The second time through, start line-editing. Go through and check for spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Check out my 3 writing tips and make sure to kill those adverbs. Keep your eye open for repetition (the bane of my existence), weak plot devices and overall continuity.
If you plan on publishing as an e-book, do one more read-through and check everything. Ensure your re-writes make sense, look for any punctuation and spelling slips you missed, and keep your eye open for sentences or piececs that don’t fit. Every sentence should advance the plot, develop a character, or build your world. If it’s not achieving one of those three things, delete it.
If you’re publishing through CreateSpace or another print-on-demand publisher, order a proof and then do your third edit. Holding your work in your hands and being able to read through it away from the computer screen is invaluable. Despite all of the edits I made in the word document, I still made over 300 changes after receiving the proof. Also, take the time to check your page numbers, scene break images (if you have them), chapter headings, and drop caps (if you have them) to make sure everything is formatted as it should be. Last, but definitely not least:
4. Find Beta Readers
There are plenty of people on Twitter, Facebook, and DeviantArt ready and willing to read your work as a beta reader. I’m very lucky to have a small group of friends who both beta read and edit for me. Every one of them is a new, fresh pair of eyes that doesn’t have the story memorized – they’re going in blind. They’re far more likely to pick up inconsistencies and point out where they get lost. Be sure to set deadlines and have questions prepared to ask them about your manuscript. I like to ask (at minimum) what took them out of the story, what characters they liked or disliked and why, and if they found any glaring errors. Having a worksheet or survey ready to go for them to fill out is also very helpful.
Take what you’ve written and go through these steps to get it edited. Once we’re finished here, we’ll move on to formatting.
What editing tips and tricks do you abide by? What are some of your biggest editing pet peeves? Until next time!