With The Earl and the Artificer ready for publication in a little over two weeks, I thought I would touch upon one of the major steps in the writing/publishing process: editing.
Editing is one of my favorite parts of the writing process and also one of the most daunting. When you finish your 300 page manuscript and sit staring at the mountain of papers, editing seems like an endless process. Really it is, since you could edit it forever, but at some point, you must edit and release it into the world.
Here are some tips and tricks for getting your manuscript edited and ready for publication:
- Edit as you go. I know many writers suggest writing a first draft in some sort of adrenaline and creativity-induced haze, but I find that I just can’t do that. If you’re like me, you’re a tinkerer. Embrace that habit… to a point. The problem with editing as you go is you can easily end up not moving forward. If you worry about getting stuck, try beginning your writing session by only editing what you wrote the previous session. That way, you have a certain area you’re allowed to play with, but you do it before moving forward.
- Make a list of things you need to edit as you write. This goes along with the previous bullet point. To keep you from going back and tinkering or to simply have a good idea of what you know needs to be fixed, keep a list of things you want to edit. It won’t cover the entirety of your editing, but it will ensure you don’t forget thing you had been dying to fix at the time.
- Know your weaknesses. This may be the hardest aspect of editing. Writers tend to either think their work is perfect or all drivel. Know what you aren’t good at. This can be learned through feedback from writing groups or even reviews of your work. Often, overwriting is a problem in first drafts. Be on the look out for overwriting or over-explaining, especially if you know you are prone to it. I have a problem with lay versus laid, so as I’m rereading my draft, I circle every one I find. That way, I can check it with a chart I have to confirm I’m using the correct tense. It may help to make a list of your known issues that you can reference as you edit.
- Have someone or something read your work aloud after you’ve edited it. This was an old trick we used in my university’s writing center. If you read something out loud, you’re more likely to catch errors or hear when a sentence is awkward. I usually can’t find someone who is willing to read my 300 page book out loud, but Adobe Acrobat Reader has a text reading feature where it will read your document aloud. It’s like a GPS reading a novel, so some of the pronunciation is awkward. Overall, I found it quite useful for proof-reading my editing novel. I heard the errors and was able to easily correct them on my word doc. Anything that lets me play on Facebook and edit at the same time gets my vote. As mentioned before, this is a trick for after your book has gone through several rounds of editing and is in the final polishing stage.
- Edit by hand. Yes, I’m killing trees, but I have found that I pay closer attention to what I’m reading on paper and make more thoughtful choices while working on paper versus strictly on Word. On paper it’s “permanent” while on the computer it can be easily changed. It’s all psychological. Plus, there’s less of a chance of being distracted by Facebook or Twitter while working on paper. I also tend to edit my edits as I type them into my computer after hand-editing.