How to Edit Your Own Book

17 November, 2020 § Leave a comment

When you write those two most satisfying words “The End”, it is a bittersweet moment. Getting to that point could represent a couple of days if you’re Stephen King or over a year’s worth of sweating out characters and plots to finish your novel. But the savvy writer knows that moment of celebration is the forerunner to lots more hard work: the revising and editing process where you put your words through a fine sieve to reveal the gems and wash out the mud. It’s a tough task if you’re in love with your word magic. No one wants to sacrifice their babies, but the reader wants you to do that so you create not just a well-written book but a well-read one.

A very useful presentation on what to keep in mind when revising and editing your own novel or non-fiction piece is on video with a series of authors and editors offering expert tips and ideas and how to make the process easier and more productive for you.

Key points …

  • be willing to cut anything to strengthen the story
  • read your dialogue out loud
  • use action verbs to drive the story
  • avoid passive writing
  • watch “I felt like” and convert it into descriptive (show v tell)
  • ensure all paragraphs and scenes are in sequence
  • make sure characters are consistent throughout
  • once you finish your first draft, put it aside for a while
  • read other people’s books and flag ideas/phrases/descriptions that impact you and learn how the writer raised your emotion
  • go back to your book and flag what’s worked well in your story
  • look for content issues first
  • review style, voice and scene issues and note what to improve/cut
  • revisit the third time and go over punctuation, structure, complicated sentences etc
  • now go back and revise using your flags and notes
  • consider copy-editing as you go eg read what wrote day before and notice simple errors
  • wait until the end for structural editing – much easier to edit something that’s finished
  • tools for editing depends on the type of edit
    • spell check
    • grammar check – automated and manual – look for obvious issues like that/which
    • recognise the limitations of any tool you use
  • beware of overusing adverbs (eg very, really etc)
  • make sure the character’s voices are distinctive
  • get someone else to help critique to pick up any misses from reading and reviewing your own work

Those are just my summary notes – watch the video for more detail, especially the first 2-3 sessions.

Write – revise – edit – rewrite – revise – edit – rewrite – revise edit … until you’ve polished the best book you can produce. Of course, if you snag a traditional publishing contract then some of the work will be done for you, the than the writing. If you self publish, the more you revise and edit, the better your readers experience will be. A professional editor is valuable if you can spring the money for it: if not, do the work.

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