Katherine Rundell ~
Most writers exhale a huge sigh of relief when they finish a draft, closing a chapter of mammoth effort. However, when the writing is done the editing begins, and sometimes this can be equally demanding. Employing a professional editor to polish your work can save you some time but it’s an expensive approach and, with so many tools to help you edit your own book, it’s often overkill. Here’s a complete guide to editing your own work, and producing a flawless book in the process.
HOW TO APPROACH THE EDIT
Step One: Do Absolutely Nothing
This might sound crazy, but the best thing you can do for your edit, the moment you finish your draft of your manuscript, is to step away from your words. Writing a book is a huge task and the commitment and focus you’ve put into it merits a break. Try to walk away from your work and give it a few days or a week to breath.
This means that when you return to start the self-editing process you’ll be approaching it with fresh eyes and renewed energy. Stephen King recommends resting your draft for a six-week period, but some of us have deadlines to make!
Know Your Audience
When it comes time to edit your book, you need to approach the task analytically. We all have preferences within our own writing style but remember – you’re not the one who’s going to be reading your book. Before you start the editing process, get a clear picture of what your audience looks like.
“Authors naturally approach their own work sympathetically,” says Brian Bird, an editor at State of Writing and Essayroo, “and after all, they’ve been up close and personal with the hard graft of the craft. Readers, however, are estranged from this process. They’re unsympathetic to the work you’ve put in and want to be entertained.” Approach your draft from this objective perspective and let it guide your edit.
As an author, you’re an expert in your field and whether you’re writing a complex fantasy novel that weaves through history or a true crime thriller, you’ll have thoroughly researched your subject. Your readers, however, have not and they need you to be clear and concise as you draw them into the world you’ve created.
In order to ensure your book is comprehensible to a wide audience, try imagining that a sharp, curious twelve-year-old is picking up your book for the first time. Ask yourself if they’re going to grasp the action and understand the dynamics of the book. With your idealized child in mind, you’ll reduce the barriers to readers getting immersed in your book.
THE EDITING METHOD
A Structural Approach
The first level on which you edit your book should provide you with a broad overview of the structure of your book. Before you launch into the specifics of word choice, grammar, and detail, you need to know that your book is in broadly the right shape.
There are three aims of a structural edit. The first is to make sure that your book isn’t missing any valuable content eg. with a novel, are the character’s motivations set out believably as the novel moves forward? The second aim is that this content is in the right order; there’s no point introducing a concept long after you’ve put it to use. And finally, do the content and structure of the book fit together into a cohesive whole?
Taking this approach on your first read-through allows you to avoid getting caught up in the details. A strong sense of your book’s structure will pay dividends when you’re editing line by line.
Taking It One Line at a Time
The line-by-line approach is what many people imagine when they think of an editing process and it’s true that this is where you’ll find the bulk of the work. However, you have to lay the groundwork for this process by getting into the right mindset and then taking a bird’s eye view of your book’s structure.
Finally, you can knuckle down to give your work a close reading. Approach it line by line, with an eye not just on grammar and spelling but also on the meaning contained in each sentence. This is a laborious process, but making sure every sentence cuts like a knife will give your book an incisive feel that readers will love.
TRICKS OF THE TRADE
Leverage the Tools
Taking advantage of spell-check and other automated tools to edit your text can save you time and effort. Web-based services such as BigAssignments, Paper Fellows, Assignment Help, and Custom Writing Services will bring any grammatical or spelling errors to your attention. Sure, sometimes we want to ignore the overly analytical advice of a computer and let some personality flow through our writing, but these tools can let you double-check your text for any grave errors.
Something fundamentally different occurs in our brain when we listen to the spoken word and listening to our text be read out loud gives us a chance to apply a further level of analysis to it. “Mistakes that seem okay on the page burst out when spoken aloud,” says Elsie W. Douglas, a writer at Liahelp and OXessays. “If you can’t persuade a friend, partner, or Stephen Fry to narrate your book for you, then Accessibility software inbuilt on PCs and Macs can do it for you.”
Editing your own book is a different beast to writing it. You need to get out of your own head, put on your analytic specs and imagine you’re reading it for the first time. With these tips and tools, you’ll find editing a breeze.
— Katherine Rundell
Katherine Rundell is a writer at UK Writings and Academized.com. Katherine has been writing and teaching the practice of creative writing her whole life and has lived a life immersed in literature. She is also a proofreader at Boom Essays writing service.