Self-editing is a task that I absolutely have a love-hate relationship. I love knowing that at the end of the process, I will have a much better story. And of course, my main aim is to produce quality work. I despise it because it is tedious and, at times, seeming impossible. It can be a daunting job to tackle. In fact, some writers get so entangled in editing that it is the sole reason for them never completing their novel.
I need to stop here and point out that there are different types of edits and different styles of editing. There is no right or wrong other than omitting it completely. That’s a no-no. Some writers choose to edit as they go. Some choose to edit at the end. Some do a hybrid. What I’m writing about today is the process of self-editing. Self-editing should not be the only editing that a writer does. I realize that hiring an editor is expensive, but think of it along the line of having your car serviced. There’s nothing that says a person cannot change his/her own car oil. Having a professional do it is simpler in many ways. For shorter works, only doing self-edits may be feasible or even wise. However, professional editing versus self-editing is a controversial discussion for another day.
I’ve previously written posts about editing. Those have been some time in the past. I’m sure that much of the information may be repeated, but I’m sure that new stuff is included here. Also, a refresher never hurts.
Briefly, let’s discuss the type of book editing. (NOTE: The types of editing are listed in alphabetical order and not necessarily in the order that most writers do them. It also should be noted that some will argue that there is no order for these edits to be conducted or that all of them are necessary. However, it makes practical sense that some types of edits occur before other types of edits. Otherwise, the writer will waste time doing double work. For example, what is the point of doing line edits when the entire section of work needs to be deleted/omitted?) Furthermore, the following list of types of edits are not exhaustive. However, these are some of the most common ones.
- Copy Editing/Text Editing: This type of edits focuses on ensuring clarity and consistency by looking at issues such as capitalization errors, filler words, grammar, dangling participles, dialogue tags, industry-standard writing style (APA, CMoS, MLA, etc.), pacing, passive voice punctuation, sentence structure/parallelism, spelling, story inconsistencies, typos, verb tense, and word usage. This list is not exhaustive.
- Developmental Editing. This also is commonly referred to as structure editing. Developmental editing usually occurs at the onset of a writing project. This heavily focuses on plot and direction an idea to help shape it into an organized story.
- Fact-Checking: This is exactly what it sounds like. This type of editing may be covered in other types of edits, but sometimes, it is good to do this as a separate edit. When a writer focuses on one aspect, he/she is likely to find more errors or items that need to be corrected. Quick aside: I once was working on two manuscripts at the same time. In the process, I accidentally mixed up a character’s age. It seemed to be a small thing, only the error caused another aspect of the story to be factually inaccurate. Honestly, I probably wouldn’t have caught this error, but I’m sure readers would have. It was a significant goof on my part. Luckily, my fact-checker caught this.
- Formatting: Again, this is self-explanatory. A formatting edit focuses on the manuscript looking the way it should. This edit is especially important when a manuscript has been edited by multiple people. It is easy for a tab to be hit or button click that causes a formation error. A tip I use to assist with formatting issues since I write in MS Word is that I turn on formatting symbols. At first, I found this feature to be annoying. But as I advanced in my writing, I’ve come to appreciate that it helps me quickly see extra spaces, inadvertent page breaks, and other formatting problems. For example, if I’m having difficulty with a section, I may put it in red or bold. When I get ready to turn it off, I may not select everything. Then, when it prints or I add something, it’s the wrong color or font.
- Line Editing: This is very detailed work that examines a story’s content and flow in-depth the content. This carefully scrutinizes characterization, pacing, and the point of view from which the story is told. A line edit is an equivalent to a microcopy edit. If this edit is done properly, it can elevate a story from good to great.
- Proofreading: Proofreading is the last edit that is performed typically. This occurs when the manuscript has been finished and is about to be submitted for publication. The purpose of a proofread is to identify any typos, inconsistencies, and/or formatting issues before the novel is printed. Consider this the last call of writing that ensures that every possible mistake is found and corrected.
Now, that the type of edits has been identified, it’s time to look at how to go about self-editing. The best way I know how to do this is to discuss my self-editing process. Editing is one of those things that is very personalized. Each writer will need to determine what works best for him/her.
Keep in mind that I’m a panster. That makes a difference in the order and how I edit. For me, a developmental edit isn’t something that I do initially. I write the first draft. Most times, I write scenes as they come to me which means the first draft usually isn’t in the order it needs to be. So, it’s only until I have the complete first rough, rough draft to I attempt a structure edit.
I do light copy edits as I write. For example, if I complete a chapter, I may read through it and correct typos, grammatical errors, or note errors in pacing or plot. I also write notes about what needs to be added or deleted or something to keep in mind. Something I recently started to do is to write down the characters’ names. I have this habit of changing a character name, and when I get to the end, I may have multiple names for the same character. I also do this for location. By having this list, in the end, I can do a search and replace. It makes life easier.
By this stage, I do another structure edit. This time I’m looking for pacing and if I created new plot holes after shifting around the text. I look at flow and chapter transitions. I check to ensure that I’ve included all key elements that I want to be included and be sure that I have all the necessary story beats. I don’t have to have any of this perfected at this point. I only need it to be workable. At this point, I’m still working in sections, and I’m noting any problem areas that I don’t have an immediate solution. By the end of this, I should have a true first draft.
Here is where I differ from many writers. Now, would be the time for my first read through. If the structure is good, I do a very heavy-handed copy edit. I refer to this as a line-by-line edit. Basically, I look at everything. I clean up as much as I find, whether it be grammatical mistakes, formatting issues, plot holes, character development, or whatever. This is the version that I will use as the foundation. I won’t make major changes to the structure or the characters. If I were a plotter, this would be my outline. All essential elements will be in this draft. I critique every sentence. This perhaps is the most brutal of all of my edits. But I don’t do just one line-by-line read through. I make several passes, evaluating if the changes that I made work. My line-by-lines tend to be in some people’s opinions as “obsessive.” I usually make more than a dozen passes, each pass focusing specifically on a certain aspect. For example, one pass I may be looking closely at the dialogue. Another pass I may be focused on location descriptions. Here is when I stop counting my draft numbers.
After the line-by-line, I do another overall structure edit. This is to ensure that I didn’t accidentally shift or delete something crucial to the overall plot while being nitty-gritty with everything else. I check for inconsistencies and most of all fluff and flow. If I’ve done everything as I should, this is the easiest of my editing, and I am able to quickly move on.
The next step for me is fact-checking and polishing. I refer to my notes and reach out to critique partners to ask questions. For example, I wrote a story that the protagonist was a firefighter. I contacted someone I knew who worked at the fire department to double-check if what I had written sounded authentic. Polishing, as I like to call it, is when I go in with my personal touches. This is when I make the writing sound like me. It’s getting deep into character and breathing life into the words on paper. This is the most fun of the edits.
After the polishing, I do several more line by line. For these, I use a check sheet. There are some errors that I make no matter what I do. I specifically check for those mistakes as well looking to pick up any others. (Search and replace is my friend!)
Finally, I tackle formatting, but I need to be honest. I’m probably very loose on this. I mean, I do clean it up as best as I can, but generally, by this time, I’m sick of looking at my manuscript. I can’t see any errors because my mind is allowing me to see what I want to see whether it is there or not. In short, I’m incapable of seeing my mistakes. I’m more relaxed on this edit, only because I know it will be heading to a professional editor at the publisher.
I’m traditionally published, and my manuscript will go through several professional edits by different editors. Typically, it will have a structure edit, two copies (at minimal), one fact (usually mixed in with the structure), one formatting, and two proofs (one from the editor and the final from me.)
Hopefully, reading my editing process will help other writers discover a writing process that works best for them. Again, editing is very personalized. So many writer friends have told me that my way of editing would never work for them. A plotter friend told me that if I outlined, I wouldn’t need to do so many passes. WHATEVER! I say to him, “Mind your business.”
Let me know in the comment section about your editing process. Was this post helpful?
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of my new steamy, sports romance, Ice Gladiators, guaranteed to melt the ice. It’s the third book in my Locker Room Love series. Available at https://amzn.to/2TGFsyD or www.books2read.com/icegladiators.
Taz has problems: a stalled career, a coach threatening to destroy him, a meddling matchmaking roommate, and a thing for his other roommate’s boyfriend. The first three are manageable, but the last… well, that’s complicated. Because as much as Taz is attempting not to notice Liam, Liam is noticing him.
Missed the two books in my sports romance series? No frets. Out of the Penalty Box, where it’s one minute in the box or a lifetime, out is available at http://amzn.to/2Bhnngw. It also can be ordered on iTunes, Nook, or Kobo. Visit www.books2read.com/penalty. Defending the Net can be ordered at https://amzn.to/2N7fj8q or www.books2read.com/defending. Crossing the line could cost the game.
Life’s Roux: Wrong Doors, my steamy romantic comedy about what could go wrong on vacation, is available at Red Sage Publishing. To order, follow the link to http://bit.ly/2CtE7Ez or to Amazon at http://amzn.to/2lCQXpt.
For more of my stories, shenanigans, giveaways, and more, check out my blog, Creole Bayou, www.genevivechambleeconnect.wordpress.com. New posts are made on Wednesdays, and everything is raw and unscathed. Climb on in a pirogue and join me on the bayou. If you have any questions or suggestions about this post or any others, feel free to comment below or tweet me at @dolynesaidso. You also can follow me on Instagram at genevivechambleeauthor or search me on Goodreads or Amazon Authors.
Until next time, happy reading and much romance.