You’re a self-publishing author? You’re on a limited budget. You want to make the most of editing and proofreading.
Here are five simple ways that you can do to make the most of any editorial experience.
Reading is critical. Read your genre. Read similar books. Read widely different books. Read books on writing. Read books on editing. Read magazines. Read adverts. Read grammar textbooks. Whatever it is, read it.
As a writer, you will have your own style and your own voice. But through reading, you will learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll see how words impact the reader and how sentences, paragraphs and chapters are formed and structured.
Being an active reader means taking all this in. If you find yourself getting lost in the book, great! But ask yourself: How is this writer doing this to me? Emulate as much of this as you can in your own writing.
Use critical friends
Giving the manuscript to your friends and asking for their opinion is great for your self-esteem. Friends, family and partners, generally, will give you the answer you are looking for! They’ll like it or love it, maybe they’ll pick out a favourite part. But is this really helping?
If you can, find someone who will be critical for you. This could be another writer or a reader that you trust. Writing groups are great but make sure that you allow the person to be critical of your work. Don’t let face-to-face interaction put you or your reviewer off.
And remember, criticism of your manuscript is not a criticism of you or your ability as a writer. It is simply a way of you getting the most from that story. Remember, too, that there are as many different opinions as readers! Try, if you can, to get a variety of readers’ experiences.
Use a style sheet
Before you get to the serious process of editing, try looking at a style sheet. You can download one here, from my resources page.
This can help to organise your self-editing process as well as make your editor or proofreader very happy! It’ll spell out the style decisions you have made as well as details on the character, settings and plot that may identify a weakness or a hole!
Consistency is always key and style sheets can help you get there. It’ll also avoid you having your characters’ name change at chapter 19 or the location that was ten miles from the river moving, suddenly, to its bank!
Now, using your style sheet and your feedback from your critical friends, do as much editing as you can. This is tough: writing is a labour of love and changing or cutting your words can feel terrible. But here are some of the things you could look out for:
- Adverbs, especially around speech tags.
If we can’t work out if a character has said it loudly or quietly or angrily or calmly from the dialogue alone, maybe you need to change the words being spoken. Do we really need the speech tag at all? Is it clear who is talking?
- Waffle or dialogue that doesn’t move the story forward.
In normal speech, we umm and ahh quite a bit. We use fillers and pauses to work out what we’re going to say. But in writing, we don’t need that. Cut to the chase or cut it completely.
- Characters or scenes that don’t do anything.
If there’s no new information, no development to character, what’s it doing? It’s why you rarely see characters going to the toilet!
- Tautology or repetitions.
For more information on saying too much, take a look at this blog post.
Find the right editor for you
Lastly, make sure you take the time to find the right editor. This doesn’t mean finding the cheapest editor. Look for things such as experience in your genre, training and membership of a professional association.
Experience counts, of course, but don’t discount the newer editor or proofreader. They are often more diligent because they want to get it right!
Make sure that you can get along with your editor too. You’re going to be sharing your story with them and making sure that you can communicate easily with each other is important. It’s going to become a collaboration.
Make sure you understand your editor’s working. Sample edits are one way that you can use to judge an editor style. Ask for recommendations too. If you know other writers that have had good experiences with editing or proofreading, it’s worth finding out who their editor was.
I hope this helps you to get the most from any editing or proofreading that you might be looking for. Remember, you can always ask me for a sample edit or read my testimonials. And I’m always happy to answer questions, just get in touch!
Nick (he/him) is an editor and proofreader, specialising in LGBTQ+ writing. He is an Intermediate Member of the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading and a member of PEN, the Professional Editors Network.
To find out more and to work with Nick, use the buttons above.
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