How To Edit
Manuscript Written…Now It’s Time to Edit!
January 2, 2019
Renee Frey, COO Authors 4 Authors Publishing
Last week, we went over the next steps needed to get your manuscript ready for publishing. Today, let’s look in-depth at editing your story.
Editing: No Right Way
Now for the ultimate secret to editing:
There isn’t one.
That’s right. There is no “right” way to edit. There is the right result, which is a cleaner, tighter, more polished manuscript. But the process varies from person to person.
Rather than go over all the possible options, I’d like to give an example of high-level ways to approach making edits.
First things first, get another set of eyes on the manuscript.
We get it. That book is your baby. You love it—even the ugly bits. That’s great.
Someone else, an impartial (read—NOT family or significant others) reader can let you know where things work and where they don’t.
A word of caution: with the best intentions in the world, your critique readers may tell you HOW to fix the issue. Smile and thank them. Then take note that the issue exists, and decide how to fix it yourself. The only exception is with an experienced critique partner, and even then, their suggestion is just that—a suggestion.
Mark-up that baby with all the problem areas. Make comments to yourself, and compile it. You might use a spreadsheet; you might just make comments; you might type a list or an outline—however you want to do it.
Make a Plan
Once you have all those issues compiled, look at them.
Suggestion 1: Start with large, big picture fixes.
Start with larger issues because you may rewrite problem areas while fixing these—so it’s more time efficient to address these, and then go back and get the remaining small nitty-gritty areas. You may also need to highlight additional areas to change if these edits changed a detail, such as the date or time something happened or a character name.
Suggestion 2: Work End to End
Start at the beginning, and edit as you go through the document. You can then fix as you edit, and apply the edits down the line. You can also catch new issues that may arise from your editing as you go, and implement those fixes as well.
Suggestion 3: Work Small to Large
If you have a lot of edits listed, and want to feel accomplished or need a boost to jump start, you can go in and deal with the smaller line edits and work your way out. The result is a manuscript that is relatively clean and polished, where all that remains are addressing any plot holes or continuity errors.
Please note that there are multiple variations of these suggestions, and other options not listed here. In the end, so long as you address and fix the problems your critique reader found and fix any other issues you discover, you’ve edited your manuscript!
Editing: Take Two
Great! Good job with your first round of edits.
Yes, you heard that right: first round.
After applying your edits, repeat the process. Have the same or new critique readers review the manuscript. If you’ve done your job, while there may still be issues, there won’t be as many. The issues might change in scope (more line edits as opposed to more big picture character arc feedback, and vice versa), but there should be fewer of them.
You may also run into situations where one reader LOVES something and another one HATES it. In that case, flag it for review, and decide if it really is “right” or if it needs a little more tweaking.
Repeat the editing process until most of the feedback you receive is opinion-based:
“I wish she were blonde, not brunette.”
“I like the word ‘chose’ instead of ‘selected.’”
“You should spell Adam with two d’s instead of one.”
These responses indicate that the reader really didn’t have much of an issue with the mechanics of the story itself, and therefore, your editing is complete.
I know I already harped on this last week, but I will say it again:
PROOFREAD YOUR WORK.
Edits are all well and good, but proofreading is looking for specific grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors.
No, you cannot just use spell check or Grammarly. While sophisticated and improving all the time, these softwares don’t find everything.
Especially if you choose to self publish, take the time to proofread or hire a proofreader to find any errors. Your credibility goes down the toilet when your prose is riddled with errors and mistakes.
Take this blog post, for example. If I had errors all over, how much would you believe my advice about writing?
I recently rejected a work because the typographical errors made it impossible to read. I didn’t know what sentences and words were because the spelling was wrong, incorrect capitalization was used, or improper punctuation made it difficult to tell if someone was speaking or if it was narratorial voice.
Some suggestions include reading the work backward (it’s easier to find errors because you’re looking at each sentence individually), re-reading it yourself after a suitable length of time elapses, having a friend who is a grammar-nut proofread for you in exchange for cookies (the good chocolate chip ones, mind you, none of that oatmeal nonsense).
No matter how you accomplish it, proofread your work.
So About Those Critique Readers
Don’t have a readily available author group in your area? Join me next week when I interview Alex Cabal, owner and founder of Scribophile. Scribophile is the largest online critiquing community and a great place to find critique writers.
Join us next week for our series on Character Arcs.
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