Editing is an important step to publishing, both indie and traditional. A book that is poorly edited can be a big turn off to readers. Bridget McKenna gives an example in her post, “Why I Didn’t Keep Reading Your Book, Part 2“:
Your opening sentence demonstrated that you don’t know the difference between “number,” which is used to describe things that can be counted, such as fenceposts and birds, and “amount,” which is used to describe something functionally impossible to count, like water or sand. So “a large amount of birds” flapping around the very first line of your book didn’t fill me with a sense of promise for your writing or a lot of respect for your editor. I’ll never know whether you told a good story—what I found in the few pages convinced me you couldn’t write well enough for the quality of the story to make a difference to me.
Steamfeed has a list of grammar mistakes to watch out for, so as to keep your readers happy. Examples include it’s v. its, affect and effect, and quotation marks.
In addition to grammar, you can use writing filters, and go through the draft multiple times. Cynthia Griffin offers some tips, such as looking for emotion, style, and fact checking. Also keep in mind preferential descriptors, which, according to The Coffee Shoppe, should ring true to the reader.
For more ideas of what to look for when cleaning up, read “The Well-Presented Manuscript.” The Book Designer’s “Can Using Editing Tools Improve Your Writing?” has a handy checklist of tools you can use for different types of self-editing. The Happy Guy’s “Glossary of Writing Terms and Definitions” can also be helpful.
You can also get feedback from beta readers. The Book Designer’s “Are Your Readers Trying to Tell You Something? How to Use Reader Feedback to Improve Your Writing” gives advice on how to use information that readers give. There are a few places to find beta readers. Quiethouse Copy Editing has a Beta Reader Network, where for $25 you can get criticism of your book. Jami Gold’s “Ask Jami: Where to Find Beta Readers” also gives a comprehensive overview of where to find beta readers willing to give you feedback for free.
If you’re not used to getting criticism, read Business 2 Community’s “Three Uncomfortable Lessons About Criticism I Learned From Publishing My Book,” which reminds you to ignore personal attacks and separate style from substance.
For an example of an author editing a fiction novel, check out Helping Writers Become Authors’ “How to Edit Fiction: Watch Me Correct My Own Story in Real Time,” which shows screenshots of the editing process.
Once you’ve started self-editing, make sure to give yourself breaks. This will keep you refreshed and more objective when coming back to your work, according to Belinda Williams’ “The Editing Holiday.”
Editing has multiple stages. They include developmental editing (big picture), line editing, and proofreading. According to BookWorks, proofreading covers a wide range, including looking at headings, consistency in hyphens, citations, and more.
After doing a round or two (or more) or self edits, you should send off your manuscript to a professional editor. For more on the differences in editing, as well as editor recommendations, check out The Creative Penn’s Editors.
What is your editing process? Please share in the comments!
Editor’s note: This post originally appeared December 2015.