Writing Life: The Editing

I have over twenty years of editing—yes, many of those were for pay, and not just recognition—under my belt. I’ve worked mostly in roleplaying, and for small publishing companies, but have also exchanged edits with other writers. I have degrees in literature, writing and editing, and I’ve been an English teacher on top of that.

However, I prefer to have someone else look over my work before I go to publish it. This is important, because they will pick up things you miss, point out story inconsistencies, and sometimes suggest a comma, or spot a spelling error. All things you are likely to miss on your final draft.

Find a beta reader. Better yet, find two, or, if you can afford one, a professional editor. And listen to them. That was ‘listen’; you should still use your own judgement on accepting their suggestions and corrections, because you are still the one responsibility for the finished condition of your work.

There are times, however, when your beta readers aren’t available, when you can’t afford an editor, and when you feel tempted to edit on your own. Those are to be avoided, but, if you insist, then there are some ways to avoid the page-blindness authors suffer:

  1. Set your finished project aside and don’t look at it for a minimum of four weeks—and six is better;
  2. Work on something else during this time, preferably something different. This gets the project out of your head to a large degree meaning you come back to it in a more detached state;
  3. Save the project as draft. When you open it to do the first edit, save it as Title-Edit1, or something similar. This means you have a copy of the original finished work in case something goes wrong. Turn on Track Changes, and begin your edit.
  4. When you’re done, leave it a day and do some writing on whatever your current project is. Do a second edit the next day.
  5. I find it helpful to produce a print version in CreateSpace, since that program has a layout for checking how your finished book will look, and you can check through it in that format, going back to the CreateSpace document you’ve created to correct errors as you find them. I do this until I can’t find any more.
  6. Split the editing up with writing. Do not stop writing during this process. Keep a fresh document open for ideas that crop up, or a notepad and pen, if that works better for you. It’s amazing what will pop into your head when you’re supposed to be editing.
  7. When you’re happy that you have produced the cleanest manuscript possible, copy it all and paste it into a text document, before copying the text document and pasting it into a clean Word document. This removes an underlying errors that could ruin your uploaded document.
  8. Go through the clean document, formatting it, and keeping an eye out for more edits that you might have missed.
  9. If you find none, you can probably progress safely to the publishing stage.

NOTE: I do not recommend this. I strongly recommend you have an editor. If you can’t afford one, at least one beta reader, if not two or three look over the document after you’ve made at least three editing passes. Don’t have them do this at the same time; have them do it one after the other, making any necessary changes in between. After that, work through your publishing process, keeping an eye out for any edits that might have been missed.



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