There is a difference between a book of two hundred pages from the very beginning, and a book of two hundred pages which is the result of an original eight hundred pages. The six hundred are there. Only you don’t see them. – Elie Wiesel
It seems like Elie Wiesel conveyed the importance of editing in that one quote. He tackled the complexity, too. An editor has a tough job: getting rid of tons of unnecessary parts without losing the point and the author’s voice. For self-publishers, who want to go through the entire process without hiring an editor, the challenge is extreme.
Editing is the least interesting part of completing a book. In fact, there’s a better word for it: it’s boring. You already wrote what you needed to write. Now, you have to be a ruthless critic to your own work. You need to recognize the gaps and abandon entire chapters when necessary. You’ll need to compress that book in a way that holds the reader’s attention from the beginning to the very end. However, you don’t want to lose your voice along the process.
It’s tough work. That’s why every self-publishing author needs a detailed tutorial on editing, so they can go through that stage like pros. We’ll give you a guide that always works in practice.
Before we get there, let’s just solve one dilemma: yes; you do need to edit! You can’t afford to publish an incomplete draft and waste the time of your readers with a flawed novel. Trust me… they will notice you skipped the editing and they won’t hold back with the judgements.
Now, onto the editing. These are the steps that will guide you to success:
1. First Thing’s First: Complete the Draft
Editing on the go is one of the first mistakes you could possibly make. Imagine you’re done with a chapter and you get back to it with an editing eye. You might fix the grammar and sentence structure, but what about the logical flow? There’s no logical flow yet; you have to finish the book so you’ll know if the chapter fits in it as it is. While you’re editing this chapter, you’ll lose track of the inspiration you had for the next one.
Take advice from the master: “My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” You are right; that was Hemingway. His strategy works. Write in the simplest way and follow the flow of your thoughts. This approach will make the editing stage simpler. During the writing stage, editing is a serious interruption that can throw you into a writer’s block.
2. Sleep On It
You just finished the first draft? Great! The worst thing you could do at this point is to start editing it right away. If you do that, you won’t notice all issues in your work. You just finished it, so everything seems pretty fine.
When you allow it to sit for some time (at least one week), you’ll be able to approach it with a reader’s eye. Your thoughts will be fresh and you’ll clearly see the gaps and excessive wording. Try not to think about that book during the period between writing and editing. That’s the best way to get that criticizing point of view that most self-published author lack when it comes to their own work.
3. Format the Piece
Formatting may be boring, but it’s also necessary. The reading audience doesn’t like weird formatting. You’ll need a readable font, proper margins, page numbers, headers… If you need detailed guidance on formatting, consider Chuck Sambuchino’s guide Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
4. Make a Plan
“I’ll just do a quick reading and fix the mistakes.” If that’s what you’re thinking, it’s time for a reality hit: that approach won’t work. Proper editing is based on a plan. This trick will prevent you from getting the editing done at one go:
- Read the whole piece and take notes of what you could change. Don’t start editing just yet. Flag the areas that make you doubt and correct misspellings on the go.
- Plan the level-editing. These are the stages to cover:
- Big-picture-level editing – fill in the gaps and cut out the unnecessary parts. At this stage, you’re worried about the structure of your book.
- Paragraph-level editing – this is where you pay attention to the clarity and flow of the paragraphs. If necessary, make the paragraphs shorter by dividing the text, so you’ll make it easier for your reader to focus.
- Sentence-level editing – at this stage, you start with the proofreading. Make sure each sentence has proper grammar and structure.
- Word-level editing – fix the spelling and punctuation issues, and do something about the repetitive words.
5. Use an Editing Tool
If automated editing tools were great, why bother with all previous stages? There’s a catch: these tools are good, but not good enough to replace an actual editor’s work. However, since you’re editing your own work, you could use a tool like ProWritingAid or AutoCrit. They will warn you about issues you might have missed when you relied on your common sense during the previous steps.
6. Get Used to the Changes
At this stage, you’ll need to go through the manuscript and see how you changed it from its initial version. Is it better? Maybe you ruined some parts? This stage may lead you into a state of complete confusion. You will have doubts, but don’t give up. Think about the changes you made and keep editing if necessary.
Try to recognize the “it’s enough” moment. Leave some space between each reading. When you read the whole book without noticing serious issues, you’re done. When you’re changing a sentence and bringing it back to its previous version, you’re done.
7. Get a Third-Party Review
You’re a self-published author, but that doesn’t mean you can do everything alone. It’s extremely important to get another person’s opinion on your work before you allow the reading audience to judge it. You can ask a family member, a friend, or a fellow writer to go through the manuscript and share some impressions.
If you want to take the process a step forward, you can get affordable, but highly professional editing help from an online service like EssaysOnTime. Since you already went through the editing stage, you won’t need the detailed work of a professional editor. You just need feedback from an unbiased party. The editors from this online service will give you that, and they will help you make your work better before publishing it.
8. Do a Second Thorough Edit
You’re close, but you’re not done yet. Now that you have feedback from someone who read your work, you’ll need to make some changes. Maybe they didn’t understand something or they felt a character was weak. Make the final corrections and read the manuscript for one last time, so you’ll be ready for the final proofreading. If you’re making serious changes, leave a gap of a few days before the next step.
9. Almost There: the Final Proofreading
Now that you made the final edits, you can go through the text for the last time. Maybe you won’t spot any mistakes, and that’s okay. If you notice any minor mistakes that you overlooked throughout the previous stages, fix them.
Finally, your work is ready to be published. Remember: it can’t be absolutely perfect for every single reader, so you’ll have to stop with the editing process at one point or another. From there on, the criticism and praise of the readers will help you get better in the work you complete in future.
Sophia Anderson is a blogger and a freelance writer. She is passionate about covering topics on learning, writing, business, careers, self-improvement, motivation and others. She believes in the driving force of positive attitude and constant development. Talk to her on Facebook or Twitter.