Self-Publishers’ Guide to Editing: A new way to edit your novel

editing

Congrats you’ve put your ideas to paper and have created a story. You have done what many have always thought about, but never tried to do. Be proud.

Now, as a self-publisher, it’s time for the hard part: EDITING. This can be frustrating and painful. What to cut? What to do to improve my writing?

Or, maybe, you don’t feel like anything needs to change. Keep in mind first drafts are called the first for a reason. Everything can be improved on the second or five hundred try.

Being a self-published author doesn’t mean you have to do it all alone. The internet is ripe with advice and services to help. Like this one.

Here is a method I use to help get through the process of editing:

  1. First, take a break for your novel. It’s easier to be objective if you walk away from your project for some time. It gives you a chance to look at it with fresh eyes.

Ideally, I like to let it be for a month. But, sometimes, I have time constraints that make that impossible. (Meaning, I didn’t make my personal deadline and now I’m scrambling to get the book ready to publish.) If waiting a month isn’t going to work for you, take two weeks.

Also, during this time, don’t think about your book. Spend two or four weeks (or more) with a clear mind. Occupy yourself with other things like a new novel or family life or blogging. Whatever it takes to distract you from obsessing over your story.

The clearer your mind is about your novel, the more distant you can be when you do sit down to edit it. This way you can experience reading how someone else might read it. I’ve returned to a novel and been amazed by what was written, good and bad. At times, I’ve been surprise that I was the one that had written parts of a chapter. That is how you want to be when approaching your unedited work. You want to fool yourself into thinking someone else wrote it, so you can edit the crap out of it without ego and/or shame.

Think about it. Not being that close to the story allows you to pick your words apart better when you think it was written by another person.

 

2. Next, listen to the complete book. And do it without editing anything!

 Audio can be a great and quick way to get through your novel without editing it. On my phone, I use a great free app called @Voice Aloud Reader. It’s a TTS reader that will read any book, pdf, doc, txt, or html that you upload on to your phone. It’s perfect when I’m on the go.

When I’m at my laptop I use another free app called ReadAloud. You can cut and paste things to be read or get it from files on your computer.

It’s been my lifesaver. Hearing your words from another source helps give that illusion that someone else wrote it. Again, you have an ally in helping you look at your novel objectively. Plus, it slows down your reading process so you don’t miss anything.

Yet, the important thing here is to ignore proofreading. You are looking for things, like: Is the story line solid? Does it make sense? Are you telling more than showing? Do events transition well?  Do your character’s words and actions follow the type of person they are? Is anything you’ve written possible? And if not, have you set up scenes that make the reader believe it could be possible? Do you like what was written or is there something missing? What is that something missing? How and where can you add that missing piece?

Take notes on each chapter as you listen. Note what information needs to be added or is possibly unnecessary.

 

3. Then, go back and fix. Take your notes from the listening and rewrite parts that you found could need some work.

Again, don’t worry about proofreading. That is not important right now. You could have the best grammar and punctuation in the world, but it means nothing if your story sucks. Work the story. Polish it until you are happy.

4. Then, take another break. This time a week or more. Remember, you want to look at it with a pair of fresh eyes. Give yourself some time to approach your novel as a new reader would.

 frustrded with writing

5. Next, listen again. Make sure it’s how you want it. Does the story work? Does it flow? Or do you feel it’s choppy? Does the basic plot formula ring through? (Check out my older blog, Turning Your Story Ideas Into a Novel, to see how a plot formula comes together.)

If needed, do more rewriting and listening in altered sections until you have a product to your satisfaction.

Some use this time to get beta readers to get feedback before they publish. If you do get a group of beta readers or family and friends to look over your work, give them copy that you have proofread thoroughly. Here are a few places to help you get a beta reader to read your book:

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/50920-beta-reader-group

https://publishdrive.com/what-is-a-beta-reader/

https://www.janefriedman.com/find-beta-readers/

 

6. Now, you‘re ready to proofread. Personally, I like to proofread a couple or more days after the last rewrite. But that’s my style. If I had given myself more time, I would rather have waited another two or three weeks before proofreading. (But that’s something I have to work on.)  I like to let things marinate because usually when I come back to it, I get better ideas and I see possible holes in the story as well as rookie typos.

 

Finally, you are done editing. Send it to get published either through self-publishing platforms like Smashwords, Draft2Digital or Amazon. Or all of them.

If you prefer going the route of a publishing house, then research your places. Make sure they sell what you have written and work on selling your novel to them. All roads are possible with a completed and edited book that you have written on your own.

Remember, no matter how little or how much profit you receive from your story, be excited that you finished it and polished it to your proudest point. You’re a writer now. Praise the craft. Respect the art.

What are some editing tips you have used in the past? Try my method and tell me how it went. Tell your trials or victories with editing and/or writing in the comment section below.

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