You’ve finished writing, and now it’s time to start editing. Most likely, you’ll work with a professional editor further along in the process, but for now, self-edits are the next step. Where is the best place to start? Josha’s editors have come together once again to provide you with a few tips to make the process a little simpler.
#1: Take breaks. During the writing process, it’s common to feel like you’ve lost your connection to your manuscript. We generally advise writers to take a break from their manuscript for as long as they need when they start to feel this disconnect; likewise, as you edit your work, we encourage you to step away before you begin editing. One of our editors, Olivia Castetter, is also an author. “Anytime I finish one of my manuscripts, as soon as I type the last word, I save my work then close out of the file for at least a month,” she says. “When I’ve been working on the same project for a long time, it’s easy for me to lose my focus, and my excitement to be ‘done’ can override my dedication to write the best book possible. So I’ve found that taking at least a month away from the manuscript gives me a chance to re-center myself, channeling my eagerness into a focused motivation.”
#2: Print and hand-edit. If you’ve typed your draft instead of handwritten it, consider printing it out and performing your edits by hand. Whether drafting or editing, using a pen and paper requires deeper cognitive processing and fosters greater creativity, both of which benefit your manuscript. Author Katherine Turner shared that she edits by hand at least once for every one of her manuscripts and always notices a vast improvement afterwards. Simply put, switching formats allows your brain to absorb the material differently, and by simply shifting from typing to handwriting (or vice versa) can allow you to see things you wouldn’t otherwise.
#3: Read it out loud. By reading your manuscript aloud–to yourself or someone else–you can hear how the cadence of your writing sounds. You can identify areas where it may sound choppy or long-winded, and you can find the places you need to rearrange the presentation of information. If you start a fresh round of editing by doing this after taking that break we mentioned earlier, you’ll have refreshed creative energy, enabling you to better focus on each word and sentence and find many of the minor errors our brains often automatically correct when we read silently.
#4: Solicit feedback. Feedback on your manuscript is important, and it matters where that feedback originates and when you receive it. It’s generally best not to ask someone else to read it until you’ve fully drafted and performed some level of self-editing (of course, there are always exceptions). At this stage, you can provide access to beta readers, sensitivity readers if applicable, friends, or family, as long as they are able to be objective, provide constructive criticism (rather than destructive criticism or never-ending praise), and ideally are representative of your target reader. However, remember to take all feedback with a grain of salt. If multiple people have read your manuscript and all had issues with the same scene, this is a good time to consider making changes. However, if only one person takes issue with something, this may not be the most helpful feedback for your manuscript.
#5: Take notes on your story. For the story–whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction–write out a timeline of the events you want to cover in your manuscript. You can use this timeline to make sure the pacing of the story feels fair to the events that are unfolding, and you can check your story’s development by making sure the domino effect of those events has been covered from start to finish. Likewise, it can be helpful to create a character roster to make sure each individual’s descriptions and tendencies are consistent with how you’ve envisioned them to be. Keeping track of these details during the writing and self-editing process will ultimately result in a more immersive reading experience for your reader, bringing the words on your pages to life.
However you self-edit, throughout the entire process, remember to encourage yourself. What works for you may not be how someone else has found self-editing success, and that’s okay. Just like every book is different, so are writers. As you go through the self-editing process, try not to degrade your abilities when you’re finding errors, plot holes, or repetition. Every draft, in every stage, needs some level of work, and this is not a reflection of your writing ability. As editor Kayli Baker says, “Editing is taking that rough stone–the good core of your story–and polishing it into a gem, so don’t let imposter syndrome take over.”
You’ve got this.
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Editing Tips Part 1:Tweet