Writing a book is a feat in and of itself. Many quit and find themselves with a sock drawer full of half-finished manuscripts. For those who persevere though, a completed draft feels like winning a marathon … because, well, you did! That’s worthy of celebration.
But there is a beast waiting for you to hand over your firstborn child – I mean manuscript – and it’s the editor. Dun, dun, dunnnnnnnn.
Okay, perhaps that was a bit dramatic, but editing is another long, hard marathon you have to prepare for once your book is done. It’s the stage where you have to chisel and mold your work into something cleaner and more defined. It’s the painful process of “killing your darlings,” so you need a game plan to keep you on track toward that polished, final draft.
1. Set Reasonable Goals
Editing can be overwhelming when you just sit down and start reading. You need to give yourself clear goals to make sure the editing time is productive. Are you specifically looking at characters, themes, the plot, or grammar? You can’t catch everything at once. You need to break it down into manageable goals. Maybe the first pass through the manuscript, you only mark character inconsistencies. Then, the second pass, you note only the plot holes or loose threads that don’t connect. This way, you don’t get distracted and lose the trees for the forest.
2. Get in the Mindset of a Reader
In order to edit well, you need to approach your manuscript as a reader not the author. If you haven’t had a chance to take a break from the manuscript since you finished it, try to do so. A few days or weeks away can make a huge difference when coming back to edit. You need fresh eyes and your inner critic. What would a reader notice or not understand about the story? Read the story out loud or backwards just to force yourself to pay attention to the words and sentences themselves. Writing the story takes emotion; editing takes a thick skin and attention to details. Print the manuscript out and mark it up in colored pens if you need to. Whatever it takes to get into the right mindset.
3. Determine the Kind of Edit
Sometimes your first draft needs a major overhaul, and other times, a lighter pass will be sufficient. Is it the content that needs work or the grammar and fact checking? Knowing this language will help you, especially if you plan on getting your book professionally edited. Editors provide a wide range of prices, depending on the kind of edit your book needs.
A content/developmental edit looks at the story as a whole and addresses the characters, plot, theme, and other pieces that should be consistent and engaging throughout the story. A copy-edit deals with things at the sentence level, looking at grammar, wording, and fact checking. A proofread is the final pass through a manuscript that addresses typos and any last glaring grammatical mistakes that were missed before.
I highly encourage hiring a professional editor or getting a trusted critique group to look at your work. Despite our best efforts, we can’t be truly objective in evaluating our own work, and fresh eyes offer greater opportunities for strengthening our writing.
If you want more info on the kinds of editing and rates offered, check out sherpaediting.com. Started by a group of our very own Taylor students, Sherpa offers great introductory rates and does quality work for a variety of clients. They are professionally trained and many are doing great things in the publishing industry. Thanks for enduring this shameless plug!
Hopefully you feel more confident about embarking on the editing journey and making your story the best it can be. It’s hard work, but with a game plan in place, you’ll be prepared to handle the massive feat step by step.
What other questions do you have about editing? What methods do you use to edit efficiently? Let me know in the comments!
Megan Burkhart (writing under the pen name Megan Lynne) is an award-winning writer of both fiction and non-fiction. Her recent awards include the 1st place Tar Heel Award for her speculative fiction novel and an honorable mention in the 87th Annual Writer’s Digest Competition in the inspirational category. Megan is also a junior agent with Cyle Young Literary Elite and a freelance editor with Sherpa Editing. Find out more about her at meganlynneauthor.weebly.com