‘I am not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.’ – James A. Michener
Writing is all about re-writing and editing and careful editing is the essence of writing. No matter how beautiful your writing is, it loses its charm if it has silly errors in it. Also, good editing is not just for published books. It should be practiced even before submitting your manuscript to the editors. It enhances your chances to get noticed.
It’s true that hiring a professional editor is always a better idea because it’s a little difficult to spot your own mistakes and get merciless towards something that you simply adore.
But, self editing is not that difficult.
Also, when it comes to hiring a paid editor, you may face two problems :
1. You have to choose wisely, after thorough research because there’s no guarantee of great results.
2. Money. When you are going for traditional publishing, you find spending money on editing unnecessary. And, if you are going with self/paid publishing, you consider it as extra expense.
However, in any case, your manuscript should be error-free. Period.
Here, I am suggesting some self-editing tips (yes, it’s not that difficult). Before I start, I must tell you that these are the tips that worked for me or something I skipped doing and regretted later.
1. Be Merciless
Write passionately. Edit ruthlessly. You need to think like a reader when you edit your own work. So, don’t fall in love with your writing. You think you are too good? You are wrong.
2. Let Your Manuscript Rest
There is one simple fact that you need to accept – your first draft is going to be a mess. Thinking that your first draft should be really good is highly delusional.
Shannon Hale says, ‘As I am writing my first draft, I am reminding myself that I am simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.’ I couldn’t agree more. So, once you finish your first draft, don’t think about it much; be happy that you have crossed the toughest step of writing a novel. Let it rest for some time, say 1-2 months. It will help you to see your own work in a new light and you will be surprised at the scope of improvement your manuscript has.
3. Take Print Outs
When you start re-working on your manuscript, do a quick revision (try changing the font). Remember – You must get a beta reader at this stage. Even if you think your story is perfectly fine. You badly need a brutally honest beta-reader, and I can vouch for this.
Now get hard copy of your manuscript. It’s difficult and tiring to spot errors in a Word document. Use pen (preferably two different colours for re-writing and errors) for corrections.
4. Basic corrections
Everybody has his/her own style and no editor should try to change the voice/style of a writer. However, there are certain things that should be avoided to make your writing crisp.
a. Avoid long sentences and paragraphs. b. Delete things that do not support your story to progress c. Reduce the usage of adverb and adjectives. d. Limit the usage of exclamation marks. Using 10 exclamation marks doesn’t make any difference. It just annoys the reader.
5. Read Out Loud
This is the most effective way to edit effectively. Odd sentences or odd usage of any word may not look odd, but it would sound odd. Reading out loud helps you catch your errors easily.
6. Edit Smaller Portions at a Time
Editing is a tiring job. Don’t rush to finish it. Take your time. Don’t try to edit 10-15 chapters at a time or else you may start losing focus.
7. It Demands Silence and Solitude
Editing requires concentration. A little bit of distraction and you are most likely to miss your mistakes. Stay away from social media or any other engagements while editing. But, do take regular breaks to break the monotony.
8. Proof-Read One Last Time
Re-writing/editing is an exciting journey. For me, it was more exciting than writing, and that’s the main problem. Ideas keep striking and you feel tempted to make changes. In fact you are never ready to submit your final manuscript, but you need to stop at some point. As Neil Gaiman has said, ‘Perfection is like chasing the horizon.
Move on. Attaining perfection is a myth. Make sure you are done with all the changes before you proofread your manuscript one last time. In the final proofreading, you need to focus on typos and superficial errors. Try editing/making corrections backwards to ignore the sequence of your story.
These are my tips that I have learnt/applied while editing my debut book, We Will Meet Again.
Are you gearing up for editing? What works best for you?