Editing is hard. There is, quite simply, no other way to put that.
Editing is hard for so many reasons. You’re reading the same thing over and over again, your eyes are glazing over, you’re ready to move on, you’re second guessing yourself.
Over and over and over again.
Which is why I create a path for myself to follow, so that, rather than simply sitting there rereading, looking for general errors, I instead have something different I look for each time.
Some of edits, I do chapter by chapter, some of them I do the whole manuscript in one pass. I’m working on doing more edits chapter by chapter so that the whole task of editing an entire manuscript isn’t so daunting, but, you’ll need to figure out what works best for you.
Now before any of you ask, yes, you still need to do your own edits before your work goes to an editor, if you are using one. And yes, you do need someone to look at your work, but, that does not mean your only option is to pay people!
We’ll be talking more about that in my next post, but just know that there are other options.
If you do decide to work with an editor, send them a sample piece and make sure they flow with you. Some are more heavy handed with their edits, even going so far as to change your voice, which was my fear. Some are more looking for obvious errors. That’s the difference between line edits and copy edits by the way.
At present, however, I do my weird balance of editing myself, using a critique partner/friend, and a number of betas who read through and give thoughts and notes and look for plot holes…
So let’s take a look at my insane currently thirteen step process. Some of them, I’ll be discussing further in other posts, so I might simply name them and skip over them, but, we’ll go step by step, don’t worry!
Before I get too deep, there are a few things you might want to look at. First of all, an editing program. You have two main options, and there ARE free versions!!! Pick one and stick with it. I use Grammarly for years, but I now prefer Pro Writing Aid
The other link I have for you all today is a weird one, but I’ll explain it later down. Just save the link. You’ll be needing it.
Also, if you didn’t grab this from the previous post… grab this now!
And now… the process.
1. WRITE IT
Oh wait, we already discussed this. But yeah, write it. Get the words out. Just write it. If this is your first manuscript, don’t try to get fancy with overlapping your edits and other things. Just write the first draft. Get it out onto paper.
2. CHARACTER / CHAPTER SHEETS
Remember how I mentioned in the post about writing about how I have these sheets that I fill out before I start writing and then as I start writing? It’s time to fill these sheets out fully. And, do your first read through.
Now listen, if you see a squiggly line or a typo or something that doesn’t sound right, YES, YOU ARE GOING TO FIX IT – but don’t obsess. If there’s something that isn’t right but you don’t know how to fix it in that moment, highlight it! Come back later!
What you’re doing on your first read through is reading the story. Enjoy it. Savor it. You’ll hate it soon.
Look for character descriptions. You described their scent as minty on page 22. Why are you describing them as floral on page 87? Did you mention facial hair? What about tattoos? Backstory bits?
All of those things, you’re going to fill out your character sheet. The same with the chapter descriptions. Write it down. What happened, where, with who, and when. If you’re keeping a calendar, verify that the calendar is accurate.
3. COVER + BLURB
Alright, your book is written, you’ve read it, you don’t hate it yet… it’s time to design your cover and write your blurb. We’ll actually be talking about this more in the Step 5 post, so I am not going to go into further detail, however, I say this now because you should be running your blurb by everyone who puts their eyes on it, whether it be your Alphas or your Betas or your editors – everyone should glance at it! Tell you whether or not it fits!
4. ALPHA READERS
And this we will be discussing in my next post, Step 4. But, a quick little thing here – an Alpha Reader is not something… it’s a friend. It’s someone to glance at your idea and say… yes or no. They are there to answer whether or not they like the characters, do they see any blaring plot issues, is anything confusing to them, and what is their overall vibe. You’ve had yourself deep in this project and know so many things – your Alpha readers are going to see the basic flaws of your book and point them out so that you can fix them.
5. CHECK YOURSELF
EVERY. AUTHOR. HAS. A. WEAK. SPOT.
Every author has that naughty thing they do that they shouldn’t do but they do do. do do do. You might already know what your thing is. For many, it is filler words, and a lot of us have particular filler words. Mine are… Just and That. It’s bad. It’s really bad. I’m also bad about using that in the place of who (that is for things, who is for people). THAT STATED (lol), I am getting used to catching myself while writing, however!!! I still do this step.
Check yourself. Use the Find function in your word processor of choice. I tend to break this down chapter by chapter, but you do you. I search for the following things and fix them as I can:
These are the things I’m most guilty of, and I try to cut them down as I can. You will figure out for yourself which words are your crutch words.
And now, we will pull out the lovely voyant tools! Voyant tools looks at a section of text and tells you which phrases you use the most often and words you are repeating. I do this chapter by chapter or pov by pov, depending, obviously. I then look and see. My worst thing is using the same adjective over and over in a space. Look for any words you are using too often, and switch them up.
Just, check yourself. And, in time, you will learn what naughty thing you are doing.
6. Pro Writing Aid
Or Grammarly. Your choice.
I personally use the PWA Add On for Google Docs right now. I click improve document, after moving a single chapter to a different doc, and go through that with PWA. I look for grammar and phrasing issues, typos, repeated words, contractions, tenses, and anything else that PWA flags.
I also do another read through while working on this. Sometimes, PWA flags things, and I get why they flag them, but repetition might be there for a reason, or maybe what’s currently being flagged isn’t the actual problem, but two lines before it is the problem, which is making what’s flagged look incorrect when it’s not.
My point is, read through while using PWA. And… look at what PWA is upset about. It might be something dumb. It might have caught a giant typo.
7. Listening Edit
This is both my favorite and least favorite edit.
It is my favorite because my eyes take a break and I sit back and listen. It is my least favorite because it takes the most amount of time, particularly for my ADHD self.
Find some sort of text to speech program, put your work in it, and listen. Listen for what sounds weird. It will catch typos super well as well. And, after each chapter, I mark down characters named, descriptions, just a quick overview of what we did in the first readthrough. Also, I like to mark down big important facts, jot them down on a sheet of paper, whatever. Things I might need later. Whatever stands out.
We will be talking about betas in the next post, but, just a brief overview. This is where betas fit in. At this point, I think my work is pretty perfect. Not much more I would do to it. Maybe a few more read throughs, but for the most part, it’s ready for other eyes. Expect this to take 3-4 weeks.
9. Beta Edits
And so begins beta edits. You will get a variety of feedback from beta readers. Everything from typos to things they found confusing to questions they had to even ideas for missing scenes. There’s honestly no telling what they’ll say!
But, you gotta fix it, based on what their feedback is!
This… this is a…
I have no advice other than to send it to your phone or kindle, a different platform, print it out, idk… and start reading. Look for the typos. Blargh.
I use atticus. Use what you want. Put it in there… and then proofread again. Create the epub and pdf versions. Read again. Look for errors. Look for formatting issues. Look for typos. Look.
12. Character Cards
This is my final step, but, it’s where I take of my notes and I type them into the spreadsheet, and I save it as a locked file to reference later. Every character has a character card, all saved together, so that when I work on a future book, I can quickly reference it.
Did I just give you way too much information? Probably. No, yes. Sort of.
I mentioned things that… you’re just not at yet, and I get that, but this is giving you an overview of what fits in where. Like, a timeline. And, if you gives you things to do when. And, an idea of when to add in other people.
Developmental Edits should probably be done before writing if you’re planning to do this, or during. Or like… also right after? But, most people won’t need developmental edits.
Line Edits would come after betas. Copy Edits come after that. Proofreading Edits come after Formatting.
But really, it’s all up to you. Do you want a chapter then edit the crap out of it? Then do it. Do you want to do extensive edits page by page once your whole manuscript is complete? Do it.
But, this is my process. Sort of…
MY CURRENT PROCESS
So I mentioned above that I’m slightly changing how I’m editing, and that’s because, for me, editing an entire 300 page manuscript is daunting each time through. Now, some things like looking for plotholes and consistency? Those need to be done once your manuscript is complete. But, things like typos and repetition? Things like making notes of each chapter? That can be done a few at a time.
I mentioned in the writing planning plotting post that I use the four arc system, and that comes into play here. So, what I’m currently doing is…
I start writing. And, every other chapter, I do basic fix-its. I search for my ellipses and em-dashes. I search for the word just. I search for multiple spaces. I do a quick readthrough. I make notes. Quick and effective. And then, once an arc of chapters is done, I do a more thorough edit. I look for the plot holes and inconsistencies. I run it through PWA. I’m splitting the manuscript into four different sections and doing basically everything but the listening edit.
And, I’m already sending it, in chunks, to my betas. This way, they’re able to work on it at their own pace, and I’m not waiting for a month to hear back. I finish an Arc, and I hand it over.
My plan is, once I’m done and I have their notes back, I’m going to do one more read through, with listening but also with looking for all of the little things, taking notes, etc.
Will it work for me? I don’t know. We’ll see.
But I’m trying something new, and so long as you edit your work thoroughly, it doesn’t really matter how you do it.
Just so long as you do it.
Please Note: This post was originally published and share on Elle’s Authoring Chaos Patreon on 25 February 2022.