Good for you. You have finished your book. I always take a few days to celebrate the delight of knowing another story is actually ready for editing. No matter how many books I have written the feeling of accomplishment is always there, the euphoria, the excitement. I love the creative part of writing.
Now comes the work. EDITING!
NO, I don’t hate this part. Editing is not a task to rush. Every word you have written is critical to telling your story. The creative process is getting your story told. The editing process is taking that story and polishing all the facets of it from the characters to the dialogue to the plot.
If you are editing yourself, try to approach your editing process as though you have never seen the words in front of you. Be tough on the pages. Every word can be changed. The delete and backspace keys, the cut and paste commands are your friends, not your enemies.
If you are asking someone you know to edit for you, make it clear that you want a critical eye not a friendship endorsement. This is a tricky line. Be sure you mean what you say, especially if it is your first book. It hurts to discover that what you thought was great isn’t so wonderful from someone else’s point of view.
If you are outsourcing this aspect of your book, give the editor a few pages to do before you commit to the whole book and the cost involved. Good editing can make a good book better. Bad editing is a nightmare. Be sure you can work with the editor you choose.
Here are a few tips on editing for yourself or things to go for when someone else edits your work.
- Typos, grammar and sentence structure. If these are not your strengths, there are programs to help you. If you are using Microsoft Word, pay attention to the underlined words. They are great indicators that something needs a second look.
- Make sure that descriptions of clothing, scenery, characteristics, etc. stay consistent throughout the manuscript.
- Avoid the use of passive verbs such as seem and become (just two examples–there are others). They can slow the story, decrease the tension. They do not create definitive words, actions or responses.
- Do not lump words together to get through a description of a person place or thing. Break up descriptions with dialogue, action or both. This delivery makes it more interesting and engaging for the reader.
- Avoid repetitive or distinctive phrases unless it is necessary for the plot or character.
- Make sure you tie up all the threads of your plot. Unless you are writing a series with a continuing plot, every book begins with a problem and ends with it solved. Leaving a reader dangling isn’t cute. It is usually annoying. If you are writing a series, each book must be able to stand alone while still leaving the door open for more development of the main theme of the series and the characters involved.
- Watch Point of View. Multiple POV is currently popular. Make sure that your story doesn’t shift so much from one POV to another that the reader ends up with verbal whiplash. Make your POV clear and reasonable.
- Watch scene transitions. Make location changes clear. Don’t just assume that the reader is following your train of thought. If making that change isn’t doable with text, use a scene break.
- Prologues and epilogues are not chapters in the usual sense. The length is generally between 3 and 5 pages. Both are scenes that are important to the story but not necessarily within the same time frame as the book.
Regardless of the method you use to polish your book, editing is important. Readers pay attention and they deserve our best efforts. Your story deserves your best professional efforts.