How to Edit Your Book – 4 Step Success!
If you’re looking for the most effective way in how to edit your book, then you’re in the right place. Most of us starting out on the road to becoming an author (and getting your book published) will be doing it in the cheapest way possible. Every penny counts. I’ve been there, so I know the drill.
Whether you want to self-publish or polish your manuscript to a grade A standard so that agents fight over your story, you’ll need to get the editing process right. This is incredibly important and shouldn’t be skimmed over. After all, you’ve committed yourself, your time, your enthusiasm and our dedication to writing this book – thinking it’s finished after the first or even second draft will be a mistake. This is the time when your investment as an author heats up.
If there’s one thing I know about editing your own work it’s this – you need to be vigilant, you need to switch from writer to editor, and you need to absorb the story like your reader will.
Pages you may be interested in:
Below is a checklist of the things you need to action in order to make the editing process both simple and successful.
Before we begin, I want you to take yourself back to the moment you decided to write this book. What was the driving factor for you? What did you imagine your book’s purpose to be? Assuming you have considered a target audience – What need is it fulfilling within your target audience?
Hold on to your answers, as these answers are what is going to form responses in your checklist.
Still with me? Great! So, let’s find out how you’re going to make the editing process a success.
Four Steps in How to Edit Your Book
1. Affirm your genre and your target audience/demographic
Without these specifics you’re book will not fit an identity in which readers need to identify with. Each genre has a particular set of reader expectations. For example, if you’re writing a romance and they all die in the end, romance readers are going to be disappointed that they’ve missed out on the happy ever after they expected from a novel in the romance genre.
Whatever genre your book fits (and it can indeed overlap with others e.g. romance/horror or romance/sci-fi) please read, read and read books that fit within this identity, read the reviews, gauge what people liked and disliked, so that you take your editing to the next level when it comes to deciding if your book fits the genre specifics.
You could also research reader expectations for (xyz) genre and access many online resources which give a greater insight into what’s old, what’s new and what to avoid.
And, don’t forget age! The age of your audience will be key to writing relatable content.
Remember the book’s purpose and the need it’s fulfilling. This may be tightly linked to the reason you decided to write the book in the first place. Purpose and intention will guide you through the editorial process.
Ask yourself the questions… is this fulfilling the purpose I intended? What is the message the reader gets when they finish the final page? Make sure your book meets your expectations of both these questions.
These two questions are paramount to the editorial process and should not be side-lined or avoided if you want your book to stand out.
2. The number one rule to switching from writer to editor is to leave time in between finishing writing your final word and reading to edit the first word.
Simply put, you need to leave at least a 2-3 week period (I often leave at least 5 weeks) in between finishing a draft and starting the editorial process. This may seem inconvenient as I know from experience that you’ll be so excited from completing the written work, that you’ll really want to rush on in and start the editing. But believe me, this could be a bad move.
Taking time out, not only re-energises you, it allows you to move far away from the book you’ve just written. You don’t want to read your book with the same pair of eyes that you wrote it with. When it comes to self-editing, you need to put as much distance between you and it as you can feasibly manage.
Time and distance will eventually turn you into the reader/editor that you need to be. The feeling you need to get when reading it, is ‘Wow, I can’t believe I wrote this!’
Pick that book up too soon and you’ll get something along the lines of ‘Meh, I remember writing this and I can’t see anything right/wrong with it.’
Another reason why this is important is because distance is going to quiet all those elements in your head that created your story. You won’t be able to see what needs adding or whether it needs taking away if you rush in, as your brain will still be seeing your mind’s eye and not necessarily the words on the page. There’s a fine line between showing the reader too much and allowing their imagination to fill in the blanks. You have to get this right, you have to give your brain the break so that it will pick up on the reader experience, and not author brain that wrote it.
Be good to yourself and your book and put distance between you and it before you even think of switching to editor mode.
3. Print out your manuscript.
Before you print make sure you number the pages. You have an exciting moment before you. Your manuscript in print! If you’ve written your manuscript on screen then you may find all the words/paragraphs/chapters rolling into one. It may be difficult to get a clear picture. Reading in print will help you navigate more smoothly, write up any comments, and move things around if need be. It will also help you implement those changes in a more organised way, as appose to flicking from page to page and editing on screen.
The beauty of having your manuscript in print is that it becomes a tangible thing! Congratulations, you’re an author!
The second best thing, is that it becomes a product that is detached from you. You will be able to read it from a detached point of voice and edit in a way that you can’t on screen.
This is a golden truth and should not be ignored. Make sure you print it.
4. Look out for flow.
This is the moment. You’re reading your book. You jump from paragraph to paragraph, scene to scene like you’re reading someone else’s work. Then suddenly, you fall. The narrative jars. You’re expected to jump a little to keep up.
This is where the flow has dipped. Take another look and see how you can incorporate a line or two to tighten up the transition from paragraph to paragraph. It could be the character’s thought process – a jump in her decision making. Have you added enough for the reader to also see the build up to that decision?
This is your time as editor to really see where the narrative, character development and plot flows and where it can be improved.
When you, as the reader, has to leap to make sense of the narrative – this is the time to add a little more to increase the flow so that your readers don’t feel that same sensation. Make every decision your characters take logical and mindful – unless of course they are not logical characters… but then that would show in the characterisation and readers would come to expect that from them.
Remember, the book’s purpose is the key. Remind yourself of this daily.
You have what it takes to edit your book with simplicity and success.
Respectfully Your Guide,