Does the mention of the word send you into a cold sweat, that drips down you back, you know right between your shoulder blades, pooling at your waistband?
I think I’m more than competent at editing, at least with other people’s work, it is after all a huge part of my job, though I do state strongly I do not copy edit, I do development edits. Yes, there is a difference.
But when it comes to my own, I go what I have always called ‘word blind’. I panic, I miss things, which leads to more panicking and more of the missing. I have stress dyslexia. It only happens when I need to really focus on my editing skills. Which is why I use a professional editor for my books.
I teach lots of students with dyslexia which ranges from the mild to the very severe, and I always say, not to worry about spelling and grammar, we can sort that out in the editing.
Well now that time has come!
It doesn’t matter if you are going to go down the traditional route or the indie publishing route, editing can be just as scary. It is the different between a good concept and a great novel.
I always advice leaving some time, personally I like two weeks, between finishing typing those last few words, to picking it up and reading again. Read something else in the meantime. Hopefully, when you get back to yours it’s not too familiar, so you can read it with fresh eyes.
Relax, find a quiet corner and have you book ready.
- Format your book –Numbered pages and your name and title in the header, 1.5 or double spacing between lines, a simple font eg Times New Roman 12 point, dialogue properly set-out (new line for new speaker) and paragraphs indented .
- Print your book out. Believe me this will make is so much easier! Keep a selection of coloured highlighters and sticky page markers too. Again, this will make life easier.
- Make notes as you go. This way you won’t forget what you needed to edit. Edit as a reader, if something stops your ‘flow’ ask yourself why. ‘Who is John? Im sure the m/c is Kevin?’ ‘What happened at the picnic, it isn’t mentioned again?’ ‘Why is there a long description about the kitchen knife?’ ‘Check hair colour of m/c’ or ‘what day was it before?’
- Don’t panic! Everything you have done is expected. Even for those authors we all years to be, they still go through this process.
- Read chapters. Don’t try and be hero and read it all in one go. Give the words time to sink in.
- Your first edit is about the story.
- Does it make sense?
- Are the characters well rounded, their dialogue natural? Does their physical description change?
- Is each character different to the next?
- Are all the stories completed?
- What about the timeline?
Once you have your notes, go back and look through each individual issue. Remember the Butterfly Effect, if you change one thing it will change the story later. Do your changes impact the story at other points?
- The way you edit is entirely up to you. If you feel drawn to the last page, start with that. I like to leave the first page to last. This is the one that needs to be the most captivating to get people to read further.
- If it needs a MAJOR overhaul that is fine too! I’ve written a story and changed the whole point of view, I felt that the story was better told from a first person perspective.
- Save all drafts. This is seriously important, email copies back to yourself, save to hard drive , external hard drive and cloud. Make sure each version is labelled with edit and date. Maybe go a step further and keep a data record or edits done in each version.
- Keep you voice. It is easy to use software to edit and to loose you voice. While these aids to editing can be extremely useful, you still need to make sure the words still sound like you have said them. (Check out my blog on editing software coming soon.)
- Set yourself a deadline and stick to it. Yes this is hard, especially if you have other responsibilities, but you owe it to yourself to get you book finished. Don’t give up now.