The importance of editing your book is paramount to the success of your novel. Too many writers, having got so far along the journey, stumble when it comes to editing their sweated over manuscript. For most people it’s even more difficult to edit than it is to write their book in the first place.
Step One: Get Some Distance
When we’re too close to things we don’t tend to see them clearly, so typos etc are overlooked. That’s why it’s important to get a little distance. After you write a first draft, take a walk to clear your head.
It’s hard to start editing your book straight away as it’s still too familiar. My advice is to shut your manuscript away in a drawer for five to six weeks. This period of time away from your novel will give you the opportunity to clear your head. The next time you pick it up you’ll see the content of the page far clearer and it will be far easier to edit your book. Better still, give your novel to a trusted friend, as he / she will be reading the paper for the first time with completely fresh eyes.
Step Two: Ask Questions.
Imagine you’re the intended audience reading your book for the first time. The big questions you’ll want to answer are:
- Does it make sense? Will the reader understand what you’re trying to say?
- Does it hold your interest from start to finish?
- Does it include all the information you need?
Step Three: Is Your Writing Lean?
If your writing isn’t lean you’ve got some work to do when editing your book. Here are three ways to get it in shape:
- Trim long sentences: If any are longer than 25 words, consider turning them into two sentences or removing unnecessary words.
- Slim down the words: Replace long words and phrases with short ones. Why say “ascertain the location of” when you can just say “find”?
Step Four: Think About Your Grammar
Here are a few major points to consider when you start editing your book:
- Good writing is error-free. This means perfect spelling and no typos.
- Check for the correct use of homonyms like to/too/two, their/they’re/there, etc. Spellcheck doesn’t always pick these up.
- Confirm you’ve spelt all names correctly.
- Good writing avoids the passive voice. Write Sara threw the ball. Not The ball was thrown by Sara.
- Check your margins, use of spacing and consistency in style of headings — font, bold or not bold, capitalisation, etc.
Step Five: Read It Again!
After you’ve made your revisions, print your document and read it again.
Editing your book is a skill that can take years to perfect. But if you follow these recommendations, it’ll result in a far stronger manuscript…
Love & Light
The Word Queen xx