We are all aware of how important proper editing is to a good novel. How many times have you read a book with a great story line, only to find yourself annoyed by an overabundance of errors? It is nearly impossible to identify every typo in a full-length novel, but we can make our end product more professional with these simple steps.
- Read your work. I’m not talking about reading as you write. I’m talking about reading after you’ve completed the writing portion of your project. Put it aside for at least two weeks, preferably as long as two months (unless you’re on a deadline). Then pick it back up and read it with fresh eyes. You will notice things that didn’t stand out to you before. You will notice even more if you read it out loud. Some people have their computers read their writing back to them.
- Add the five senses. Read your work. Again. This time look for opportunities to enhance scenes by adding the five senses. Don’t go overboard and change every scene. Don’t try to fit all five senses into just one scene. But do look at some of your key scenes and increase the reader experience by adding some additional senses that will help to put them into the scenes with your characters.
- Show don’t tell. While your on that second read read-through look to see if your telling instead of showing and correct as necessary.
- Use self-editing guides. There are a number of good guides available on the internet. I’m partial to Editing 101 available in the Indie Author Group on Facebook (it’s in their files). It’s a closed group, so you will need to join if you want to use their guide. A good guide for weeding out weak words is 18 Common Words That You Should Replace in Your Writing. Even if you only use one or two guides, your writing will get stronger.
- Get a critique. These are invaluable. If you can find a critique partner who can read your entire work in a few weeks or months, that is ideal, if not, you can join a critique group (you may find your critique partner there). There are several good groups available. We critique other people’s work, and in exchange, we get to submit a portion of our own work to be critiqued. It is a give and take scenario that works well, but can take a very long time if you join a group with strict limits on the number of words you can submit each week, Scribes is the group associated with ACFW. There are other options out there that are also good. I recommend finding one or two critique partners you trust and trading work with them.
- Pay an editor. Yes, I know it’s an expense. We all want to cut out expenses where we can. This isn’t the place to do it. Find someone who will give you a great deal, but get a paid edit. A friend who has good grammar doesn’t quite cut it. Editors notice things that others might miss. They know what to look for. They go the extra mile checking your research. A good one is worth every penny.
- Find beta readers. This is a great final step. You’re almost ready for publication, but your work might have a typo or two left in it. They will catch those little errors and help you to avoid the embarrassment of publishing your work full of mistakes. You can find beta readers on Facebook too. There are also groups on GoodReads where you can request beta readers.
What are your favorite editing tips? What has helped you to polish your work?
Share your insights in the comments. Let’s all help each other to improve our writing.