By Kenney Myers
If you are writing your first book, you might be nervous about sending your manuscript off to an editor for the first time. First off, that is completely normal and healthy. You can take a couple of approaches to this and neither of them are wrong. You can either make sure you have the story as you want it and then leave all of the editing up to your editor or you can attempt to reduce the rounds of editing by doing some of the editing work yourself.
In my personal case I ended up thinking I was doing the latter but turns out, I was doing the former. By the time I got to the third round of edits, I was aware of what I needed to be doing and also had found some software tools that made the job significantly easier for the editor.
Your main writing software. I think it is important to start with whatever your main writing software is and make sure that you leverage everything it has to offer. I personally used The Novel Factory to outline my book and do my character development. Leveraging everything this software has can help considerably with continuity and flow. Are all of your scenes in a sequence that make sense? Did you make any mistakes with your characters either in describing them or matching a consistent tone? I personally had pictures matching every character and every scene, and I heavily used the scene synopsis to just make sure I was consistent with everything. Your editor may also find these things for you depending on the type of editing you have asked them to do, but using something like The Novel Factory can really reduce these types of consistency problems.
Along the same lines and piggybacking on the continuity theme I used Shutterstock, DepositPhotos, and Pixabay to find the images that I used in my main writing software. You may prefer to just write out everything to describe your characters and settings, but for me to really lock in I found pictures that best matched what I was going for on these sites. This is a tool that proved to be invaluable for me because as I was writing or editing I could quickly look at the images I was describing to make sure that I was being as accurate as possible and I could also modify those images as needed to incorporate other elements from the story. I usually just touched those up with Microsoft Paint or a similar image editing tool as needed. Sometimes I needed to use Photoshop for more advanced changes to the images.
After my story was written and going into the first round of editing, I switched from using The Novel Factory to using Microsoft Word. This made sense because the bones of the story were entirely in place and my main objective now was cleaning up the grammar, punctuation, spelling, and plot holes as they were uncovered. This was also the preferred delivery format for almost every editor that I interviewed before choosing the one I ultimately used for the book. My guess is that most editors you send your book to are going to be looking for or will be willing to accept it in Microsoft Word format. In my case, The Novel Factory let me export my draft to Microsoft Word so the conversion was simple and I believe that most writing tools have this feature built into them.
Jumping ahead a bit, but Microsoft Word and the track changes feature were critical in making sure that the editing rounds went smoothly. I made sure to track any changes or additions I made so that the editor knew exactly what she needed to review for the next round of edits and what she might choose to skip. I highly recommend that you propose this to your editor as well to save a lot of time and actually a lot of money in the editing process.
Word Frequency Tools
Something that I did not use initially because I was completely oblivious to what I was doing was a word frequency analysis tool. What is that? I thought you would never ask! I found out that I use some words A LOT in my writing. For instance in my book I used the word “just”, around 480 times and I am guessing that at least 400 of those times it was completely unnecessary. I found an add-in for Microsoft Word that helped me identify these repetitive words that is simply called Word Usage and Frequency Report by Greg Maxey. If you eliminate redundant words and remove or replace them as appropriate that will also be a big time-saver for your editor.
Along those same lines I also realized that I used a lot of the same phrases over and over and also had a few clichés that had naturally worked their way into my manuscript. I used another tool called SmartEdit to uncover those. They have both a Microsoft Word add-in as well as a standalone writing tool, I used the Microsoft Word add-in. This was truly an eye-opening tool and if you have to pick between just a word frequency tool and this one, I would use this one because it really does it all. I didn’t ask my editor but I am sure she appreciated me using this tool because it just meant fewer things she had to point out or correct in my manuscript.
There are other software tools that come in handy for authors for creating book covers, for formatting your book as an ebook or to print, but those aren’t the focus of this article. The tools mentioned above are a great example of ways to help make the job of editing your book easier and more efficient for any editor. In my opinion, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the author to make sure that the final product is excellent and through leveraging tools we can contribute significantly to that goal. I do want to be clear though that these tools in no way replace the job of the editor. They are an integral part of your team and super critical to the success of any book whether you are self-published or you are traditionally published.
As a self-published author I am constantly looking for ways to cut my costs and to streamline my creative process. For me, software tools help with that significantly. Once again though, every writer has their own way of doing things; it’s part of your creative process. The next time you are preparing your manuscript, give these tools a look and see if they can help make the life of your editor better too.
Kenney Myers is the founder of ebookfairs.com an online book fair platform, and the author of the Jon Bragg series, a modern Norse myth.