Deadly Myths and Inspired Truths About Book Editing

Any decent writer knows that editing is a major part of the process, and it can be the most daunting part as well. Sure, with spelling and grammar checks on computers now day’s part of the work is done for you, but nothing beats knowing how to self-edit to make sure it’s right.

Computer programs will only find misspelled words and at best misplaced commas, but it won’t correct problems where the use of the wrong word spelled correctly happen.

The program cannot tell you meant to say, “He was sorry to say he cannot do it,” when you typed “He was sorry to say he can do it”. They have a totally different meaning which then can throw off the reader, change the consistency of the story, and make you look like an amateur.

When I finish a book I run the program to check for glaring mistakes and fix those.

Next I re-read the book. The first time I re-read, it is simply for flow and content. I make sure that names are correct (you’d be surprised how many times I have typed the wrong characters name).

With this “pass through” I also read to make sure the timeline is intact. In other words, I make sure that I don’t mention something before it actually happened in the book.

This happens on occasion because I have ideas for the next book in the series which sometimes accidentally get thrown in before their time. Then I set the book aside for a couple of weeks.

I have found that if I try to edit for spelling and grammar right away, I read what I meant to write, not what I actually wrote. It’s in my head a certain way and as the human brain is prone to do, if I read too soon, my brain shows me what I want to see, not what is there.

After the two week waiting period I do a second re-read and rather than reading the book as it is intended (a story) I read extremely slowly one word at a time. This forces me to actually look at each word and be sure they are correct and what I meant to say.

Then the book is set aside for a week or two again. I go through this process probably four or five times.

That may sound excessive, but I have found that sometimes even reading slowly and carefully, my brain still wants to show me what I want to see not what is there.

After I am done and believe that it is as good as I can get it, I send it to where I self-publish. I self-publish because I sent out hundreds (no exaggeration) of letters, and the few that came back were all rejections (no surprise there, it’s hard to get an agent or publisher now days).

But self-publishing gave me an advantage I hadn’t planned on. I upload the book and order a proof. When I get the proof I read the book yet again, and for some reason seeing it in print highlights any mistakes I made when reading on the computer.

This gives me another edit, so that the book can be as perfect as possible before I put it out to the world. When I am done with my proof edit, I have a select handful of friends read the book, and make a list of mistakes they find. I then compare their list to mine, make final revisions, and publish.

Writing is not always easy, editing is not fun, but to me it is worth it to see my ideas, my characters, out in the world.

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