Editing is the process that helps us move from seemingly random thoughts on a page to a polished, ready-to-publish novel. It’s time to toss the Dread and hug the Edit. The following eight editing steps are more or less in order even though authors loop back to earlier steps on occasion. Note that most authors prefer step 3A or 3B, not both. Let’s don’t go edit crazy, now!
1. Self Editing
It’s natural to edit as you go along. Typical self-editing corrects spelling, rewrites worrisome sentences, and makes changes to the plot direction.
PRO: You are available whenever you are writing. A quick edit of a previous page can give you the boost to continue forward.
CON: Good for a quick check, but you are too close to the writing to see very much. There is the trap of spending too much time on perfection to the detriment of any progress.
2. Friends and Family
Asking friends and family to read opens your reading world beyond yourself. You’re well on your way to being an Author. When friends and family offer, or accept your offer, to read what you have written, they bring fresh eyes to your document.
PRO: You’ll have someone else’s perspective. When you’re overcome by doubts, they are good for a dose of kindness.
CON: Their perspective is clouded by their relationship with you, and they may or may not have the time and skill to do more than read a little, and say “That’s good.” Their schedule may not allow them to meet your deadline needs.
3A. A Local Critique Group of Authors
If you’ve joined a local group of authors, the group may meet regularly to read and critique snippets of each other’s work.
PRO: You’ll have the less personal perspective of other writers on a portion of your writing. You will learn to accept criticism rather than argue or explain. You will develop a professional relationship with other authors.
CON: You may not be available for every group meeting. The writers have a variety of skills and experience, and you may receive erroneous advice. Not everyone in your group may be familiar with your genre. Because your reviewers are reading only a small snippet, the group may hone in on irrelevant points.
3B. An Online Critique Group
An online critique group allows you to submit your writings for critique and in return, you critique others.
PRO: You work at home on your own schedule. You submit and reciprocate on your own schedule. The critiques tend to be grouped by genre. You will learn to accept criticism from a variety of people you don’t know and can’t see which is early training for reviews after you are published.
CON: The writers have a variety of skills, and you may receive erroneous advice. The group is fluid, and a reviewer with good ideas may no longer be available. The reviewers still read only a snippet at a time and may hone in on irrelevant corrections. However, the reader who told you he found seventeen adverbs in your submission is not necessarily a bad reviewer. True story.
4. First Draft Readers
A first draft reader is one who will read your writing for the story and tell you whether you have gone awry.
PRO: You select your first draft readers from your more skilled family members or an author from your group who understands your genre.
CON: First draft readers are hard to find. Readers sometimes get bogged down by commas and grammar when you need to know whether your characters are believable and your story is logical.
5. Draft Two (etc) Readers
Readers of subsequent drafts read the story with an eye for your characters and the story. If they see punctuation or grammar corrections, they will mention them.
PRO: More eyes; more perspectives. It’s recommended to use readers who have not read along in the development process of your writing.
CON: Additional readers are hard to find. Not everyone will be able to meet your schedule or your expectations.
6. Editing Software
Editing software reviews your writing for the mechanics: grammar, punctuation and writing style.
PRO: Your editing software will help you to see your weaknesses and correct them. Do you tend to overuse cliches? Your editing software will tell you. Passive verbs? Your editing software finds them. Software is time-saving because it finds areas for correction much quicker and with more accuracy than any other method.
CON: Editing software is not infallible. Sometimes it misinterprets or is wrong and sometimes it misses something critical. It’s a mistake to change anything just because the computer said so. Your own skill and research must be applied.
7. Professional Editor
A professional editor is critical before you release your writing to the outside world. Give your professional editor the most polished document you can. One that you have scrubbed to the best of your ability by using your writer/readers, draft readers, and editing software.
PRO: After your professional editor completes the edit, and you have made corrections, you are ready to publish.
CON: Professional Editors cost money.
PRO PLUS: Your editor is your secret weapon for success.
8. Release Your Final!
Now you are ready to query an agent, submit to a publisher, or self-publish!
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