Friday, June 1, 2012

Tips to Edit Your Own Work

We all live in edit hell! Even if you claim you love it, you know you don't (shaking finger at you)! Unfortunately, editing skills separates a mediocre writer from a great writer in the self-publishing world. (Little secret: even traditionally published writers have to have extensive editing from their editors. NO ONE turns in a perfect book.)

I have never claimed to be a perfect writer. FAR FROM IT!! Over the past few years I have learned a few tips that help me self edit my books before I get them to my editor. I have to have an editor. It's only good business practice, but here are some ideas to help you along the way.

1. Just write!

Don't edit while you are writing. Get the words on the page and let your creative juices flow. If you worry about editing, you are going to get stumped and not get in your word count or ideas down.

If there is a blatant typo, yes change it. Don't go back and fix grammar, punctuation, etc....

2. Step away.

After you finish your novel, it's a good idea to step away for a couple days and let your mind have some down time.  Use this time to read. Writers should read, read, read, and this would be a great time for that. Let your mind escape from your characters.

After a couple days go back and read your novel. You will be able to look at it with fresh eyes and catch some of those simple mistakes. Plus stepping away will give you fresh ideas and see plot holes. This is a good time to help layer your story-line.

3. Kindle it!

I use the word Kindle as the universal reader but I also mean any ereading device, this includes your phone or your PC. I always send my novel to the ereader before I send it to my editor and before I publish it, I send it to my ereader.

It's easier to spot mistakes on a different device. Plus I want to see exactly what it will look like when my readers will buy my book. More times than not I catch too short/long paragraphs for an ereader or formatting mistakes that need to be fix.

4. Cut Unnecessary words!

I use a lot of but, exclamation points, and goofy words on my blog. It's a place for me to just write and help authors. I really should take the time to write the blog, edit it and take my own advice. BUT this is where I get my words out and let my creative juices flow and I don't cut out the unnecessary words.

Don't do this with your manuscript! Cut out the repeating words, phrases, unnecessary adjectives (Lisa spoke loudly....Lisa screamed).

5. Use spell check!!

Spell check doesn't always catch the true editing issues, but it doesn't hurt to run it a couple times before you send it to your editor or before you publish. It's another set of eyes to get you to look at some issues that you might not have caught before hand. Missing words and homophones are not found using spell check, but it will help with the general, easy mistakes that easy for your eyes to miss.

6. Read your story out loud.

Reading out loud will help your trained ear hear the missing words or world flow. This is one of the strongest editing tips you can do to catch those missing words. Read each word carefully, slowly. We know our manuscripts so well that sometimes we can skip over the words, so take your time and truly read it like a readers!

7. Send it off!

Enough is enough. Once you think you have edited until your eyes and fingers have had enough, you've had enough and so has your manuscript. It's time to send it to the editor or publish it. Let it fly on its own!


Side note: It's taken me years and over three editors to find a perfect fit for me. If you go look at any of my reviews, you will find several reviews that claim my books have editorial issues. AND THEY DO....luckily, I just had all of them re-edited by my fabulous editor, Judy Beatty!! She is doing a guest post on Monday!! AND giving away a free edit! Be sure to stop by!

Do you have any tips for our writing community about editing?

BTW....If you get a chance pop over to Book Tour Radio! I'm being featured today! FUN!!

19 comments:

  1. Great post, Tonya. I also use AutoCrit, an editing software which is extremely helpful in picking up cliches, overused words, long sentences, etc.

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    1. Talli, I've never used AutoCrit. I must check that out. Thanks.

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  2. I also use Autocrit, and I pay $10-$20 to get my manuscript professionally printed. First round I have them spiral bound at a copy store, and that puppy and a red pen went with me everywhere for about 3 weeks. :) I make those edits, then I print at the copy store on hole punched paper. This way I can make minor tweaks and just replace the sheet in one of those massive 3-4" 3-ring binders. Then I do the whole read it in a different font or on Kindle etc.

    I also find that editing my chapters out of order helps. I catch a great deal more, and the middle always needs extra TLC, as it's like the forgotten child in a family of three. :)

    Another cool tip I picked up from James Scott Bell was to cut off that first chapter. That REALLY made my book stronger, and I found out from Scott Nicholson he cuts 1-3 chapters. You can usually move the teeny-tiny bit of crucial info in the chapter you're going to cut to another part and save pages of back story that just bores the reader.

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  3. Good idea about the Kindle read. I hadn't thought of that. Reading out loud is one of my best tools. Thanks for the post. Timely since I'm in editing mode now.

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  4. As always, great tips, Tonya! I have had to teach myself patience to let the book sit a few days (weeks is better). And once you've been through the process a few times, some things get easier. I find myself automatically curbing my really's, and other often repeated words. Then again, other's crop up to take their place. A reader commented recently that there's a lot of growling in one of my books but no animals! Now I feel like growling cuz I've got to be careful of that! LOL

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    1. Oh, Stacey, I'm awful with patience. Once I get the book completed, I want to rush and get it in the hands of my readers. It's crazy!!! GROOOWL!

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  5. Reading out loud is great; here are two ways to make it more effective. Trace your words with your finger and read like a fourth grader, one word at a time. Also, read your paragraphs BACKWARDS. It is amazing how often I find incorrect words that way (misspelling too). I also like editing on a hard copy. Just something about reading words on paper. :)

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    1. Sound advice, Edward. I do the finger tracing with my critique partners and it helps me find the mistakes in their chapters. I just don't take time to do my own. I need to do that. I have heard that BACKWARDS is also great, but that would confuse me...think I.....

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  6. All those tips are great, thanks! I especially appreciate the Spell Check reminder...I work in science in my "real" writing world, and it seems that half the words we use don't exist in standard Spell Check software...so I tend to ignore those pesky little underlines, figuring the computer just doesn't recognize that "neurofilament" is a real word...but a lot of the time it IS recognizing that "dont" should probably have an appostrophe.

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    1. We do have a tendency to ignore those blue lines:))

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  7. Another great idea is to get 1-2 fellow authors you can "trade" with and beta read for each other. Its another set of eyes, and they'll be more critical than a reader, but with constructive feedback. I have two of the best that I trade with and we help each other spot plot holes or anything that does/doesn't work in a given chapter. Awesome post, Tonya! I will def be stopping by on Monday for that editor guest post!

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    1. Great, Heather! I'm so glad you can take some things away from this blog and tailor it to your needs.

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  8. Reading on the Kindle is an excellent idea.

    I've learned a lot from reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

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  9. Some great suggestions here, Tonya, as usual. Looking forward to what your new editor has to say on Monday. I can imagine it would be very interesting to edit a book that another editor didn't properly handle.

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  10. Lots of good editing tips. I use autocrit and find that I have a new favorite word in every manuscript.
    Merrily

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