It’s been a while since we’ve had a Let’s Talk, so I’m back with one of my favourite topics: editing.
If it’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year of having my first novel published, it’s how to minimise my time working on edits. I spent a good few years fumbling my way through Caligation’s edits, and even then there were still a few missed mistakes that I recently amended – the joys of being self-published, right?
I have recently released a new book – The Arbiter: Turning Pages – a book which took significantly shorter time to edit (and not just because it’s much shorter!). I wrote the book in 10 days flat (and then wrote up a blog post on how I managed that) and edited it within a few months (if only because I was waiting on betas and editors). So, this month I thought I’d share with you the editing process I’ve settled on.
One disclaimer: always remember to do what works for you. I’ve found an editing formula that suits me and my style and, while I can offer some advice on what that entails, you need to do what works for you. Hopefully this gives you some ideas of where to start and what to try, however!
So, here we go!
The Basic Plan:
- Developmental Edit: This edit entails a read-through for style and cohesion. I don’t worry so much about the words themselves, and focus predominately on plot. Does it make sense? Are there plot holes?
- Line Edit: I go through it again, after a short break, and read the entire thing aloud. Why? It helps you ensure your dialogue sounds okay, and it also helps you spot errors and things that flow poorly. As I’m reading aloud, I make sure that every sentence sounds good, that they vary in length per paragraph and that every paragraph flows well from one to the next. it’s also very handy for picking up on your ‘show don’t tell’s.
- Ctrl+F profit: By the time I’ve read through it twice, I start to pick out what words I overuse, and I make a list. I also do some searching around to see what commonly overused words, or filler words and adverbs, people have flagged. Then, I hit ctrl+F (the search function) and go through the document for every. Single. Word. This cuts out a lot of nonsense and allows me to vary up my overused words, identify things like passive voice, etc.
- Online Checkers: Most people have their favourite online spellcheckers – for some, it’s Google Docs, for others it’s Grammarly. I personally find Grammarly very useful for double spaces, dialogue grammar and language use (US vs UK). So, at this stage, I dump it in chapter by chapter and see what Grammarly identifies. It’s not 100% accurate, and it often flags things inappropriately for creative writing, but it’s a good start and it helps pick out some obvious mistakes as, by this stage, your eyes are starting to autocorrect them and your proofreading becomes much less accurate for this work.
- Beta Round 1: I send it off to my first two betas at this stage, who give me an idea of how the book flows, help me identify confusing sections, and generally just give some damn helpful feedback. I take this feedback onboard and edit accordingly.
- Line Edit 2 (optional): If I feel the book needs it, I do another aloud read to pluck out the last bits of passive voice, to change sentences around, and to really hammer in the right flow.
- Beta Round 2: I get my final two betas to have a read and see what they think. Again, I edit accordingly.
- Online Checker 2: Whenever I edit, I find I put in mistakes if I’m messing around with certain words or sentences. Another run through Grammarly picks out any little issues I’ve accidentally added in when editing.
- Hard Copy Proof: At this stage, the book is pretty solid. So I order a hardcopy to admire the cover and get excited. Then I read it backwards sentence by sentence. Yes, backwards. At this stage, I’ve read the book so many times that I’m blind to little mistakes. Reading it backwards really helps pick out any errors that no one else has picked up thus far.
- Professional Proof: It’s always good to have someone professional (or, at least, someone very familiar with this sort of thing) to go through and proof for you. I give them the hard copy (with my scrawl all over it) and have them do the same thing.
And then I release the finished product. It may sound like a lot, but (apart from waiting for betas and proofers) it doesn’t really take that long. If you have the opportunity to pay for line and developmental edits, do those just after you do your own in the layout above. Or feel free to take what you need from the plan I’ve shared and do with it as you will (or take nothing at all). Hopefully, however, there’s something in the above that will give you an idea of how to edit more economically.
If you’ve got any other suggestions or comments, shout them out below!
Finally, if you haven’t checked out my brand new release, you can do so here.
tl;dr – a good editing plan is your best friend.