Yesterday in my post I mentioned that I used to work as an editor/proof-reader a few years ago, (and I still do, as freelance) and weirdly it also came up in a conversation with a good friend yesterday over emails. She’s asked me to have a glance over an excerpt she’s written, and I can’t wait to, it looks really cool.
But it got me wondering about editing and the indie community of authors. There are some authors who happily pay a hundred or more for editing, and are very happy with it. There are others who pay the same amount and they have books full of mistakes. And there those who do it themselves, or don’t bother at all.
Now, I do my own manuscripts, but that’s because I’ve done it for an awful lot of people. If you’ve never done professional editing before, I can’t see it turning out well for you. Let me explain; I don’t mean it to sound as stuck up as it does, I really don’t. I just mean that it’s so incredibly difficult; I’m impressed if you decide to do it yourself without knowing what you’re doing.
And I’m saying this from experience. When I had finished writing Conner, for the first time several years ago, it was full of mistakes, and I hadn’t yet started working as a proof-reader, never mind as an editor! (Which came later.) It was truly atrocious, you couldn’t go for a few pages without going, “Oh, there’s another one!”
But when I got training for editing, and I really started to pay attention, I realised how little I knew.
So, if you do decide to have a go yourself, I’ve listed a few little tips to use when editing your own manuscript.
1. Always check for spelling errors. No, REALLY check for them.
It’s amazing how many people say to me, “But I did check for spelling errors. I used Spellcheck.” Let me tell you something people, Spellcheck is not-let me repeat that, not-a 100% check on your errors. Sure, it will pick up on simple errors such as a word with missing or extra letters; ‘trieeed’ instead of ‘tried’, for example, but let me give you one it won’t pick up on. If you write ‘form’ where you meant to write ‘from’, 9 times out of 10, it won’t even pick it up. If you can’t be bothered to re-read your own manuscript at least three times for spelling errors alone, pay someone. 🙂
2. Check for grammar.
This is an easy one. Check for the grammar! And as above for Spellcheck…. Try reading your manuscript out loud, rather than in your head, even if you’re just murmuring to yourself. This way, if something doesn’t sound right, you will hear it, and pick up on it as you do so. Trust me, saying something out loud will pick up on things that skimming with your eyes won’t.
3. Does it make sense?
Sometimes when we’re writing, it’s easy to get bogged down with something else; the kids, housework, the garden, that annoying sales call. So we stop writing for a while, and when we come back, we can’t remember exactly what we were going to write. So….we put down the rough idea of what we were going to write, and carry on. And there is nothing wrong with this. But you must check for continuity. If character A got shouted at by character B, in the next chapter they can’t straight away be laughing and joking with each other. It’s annoying, and it disrupts the flow of a story. So always read through to make sure your story links together.
4. Have you got your facts straight?
Sometimes you might be reading a book, and you’ll scan the line you just read again. “I’m sure that’s not true.” you think to yourself. This is when authors don’t do their research. I once edited a book where the author was writing a romantic story about a couple who sail to the New World just after Christopher Columbus had a good look around. She set it three years after he had been. But the story was set in 1645. Quite impressive seeing as Columbus died in 1506 and arrived in the Americas around 1492. So the author hadn’t done their research. You must check for simple facts in your story as well. If you mention a historical person or event, are the dates right? If you’re setting it in another country, do you know the geography of it well? If you want to mention a subject such as science or psychology, do you understand it? There really isn’t any excuse nowadays, with the internet there to do research on if nothing else.
5. Rewrite, rewrite, and rewrite again!
If you have followed all of the above advice, and have moved onto your cover, STOP! No, you’re not done yet! With all of the errors you’ve corrected, and the facts you’ve changed, and the parts you’ve linked together, some of the sentences may need smoothing out. You may have just thought of the perfect part to put in that would fit where it wouldn’t before. Maybe you just want to be sure? So rewrite. If you’re a good writer, chances are you are a good reader. And you know what parts might be too lengthy, or not lengthy enough. A simple fight scene can be made boring with no tension. Concentrate on details; this helps you to slow the pace down, without losing the tension. Rather; it creates the tension!
So I hope some of these tips will help you if you do decide to edit it yourself. And if you decide you would still like someone else to do it for you, you can always consider me! 🙂 Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and see if I can help you.