Editing Your Novel: Tips and Troubles

editing blog
Some harshly edited text

So, continuing my trek into self publishing (now to happen in just over two weeks, eek!) This week I want to talk about editing.

One huge drawback to self-publishing over trad-publishing, is that you don’t get an editor or proofreader to pick apart your book looking for flaws. It’s possible to pay for both, and this is the route I’d recommend, but not everyone can afford that. Plus it’s good to have a back up in case you make changes after you get your edited script back.

Editing – what is it?

Editing tends to focus on character and plot consistency, pacing, believability; and fundamental problems like that. I’ve read professionally edited books that are still majorly flawed, so it’s not foolproof.

How to Edit on the cheap

Friends – I have a few very talented writers as friends who are good at spotting flaws in my writing, so they always get first read. It can be difficult to hear criticism of a book you’ve poured your heart into, but no matter how angry or upset you feel, DON’T PASS THOSE EMOTIONS ON. Anyone giving you criticism is doing you a massive favour and is probably nervous about doing so. No matter how wrong you think they are, accept their comments with thanks.

Unfortunately for all writers, the best people to criticise your writing are those who don’t like it, so long as you can get more information out of them than ‘nah, hate it.’ When somebody loves what you write, they don’t notice all that’s wrong with it. If you can find a reader who doesn’t really like your writing, but is still prepared to read it and then tell you in detail everything that is wrong with it, cling on to them, buy them cake, they must be cherished.

Beta readers – I discovered these on Goodreads recently. Some are people who just like to read new novels and comment on them, others are picky, still others charge. They give feedback and will be able to spot flaws, but not to the professional level of an editor. I’ve not used them for this book, but will try them out next time around.

Writing a synopsis – unfortunately most writers don’t write their synopsis until after the book is finished. THIS IS UNWISE! If you want to see inconsistencies or areas where your story lags, then writing a synopsis is a great way to do it. If you can’t find a way to make your plot sound interesting, then maybe not enough is happening. If there are large sections that you don’t mention at all in a synopsis, it may be because the pace is too slow there. Writing a synopsis when you’re editing is also a great way to take some of the pressure off when you come to finally write it, which is a good idea, because it’s a truly awful experience.

Writing blurb – blurb consists of a few paragraphs that capture enough of your book to make it intriguing so the reader is hooked. Again, if you write the blurb while you are editing then it focuses your attention on what you want the book to be about and the atmosphere you want it to have. Writing something down is the best way to be clear about it. If you can’t write an enticing blurb, then there may be a flaw in your story.

Proofreading – what is it?

Proofreading is the final edit, where somebody who knows spelling and understands commas, goes through correcting flaws, and replacing missing words. I’ve seen a few writers ask if it really matters that a book has lots of spelling errors, and I’d say yes, it does. Grammar errors are like hiccups in your writing, they distract the reader and remind them that they are only reading a book, rather than living a life through the characters. They spoil the immersion.

How to Proofread on the Cheap

Reading Aloud – I don’t think this will work for everyone, but it works very well for me. For some reason, even when I’m not paying attention as I speak, if I read outloud, I spot missing words, dodgy grammar and repeated phrases.

Editing programs – Grammarly or ProWritingAid. I mention these two because they’re what I’ve used. They’re both problematic, but extremely useful. I’ll talk about them at greater length in a future blog.

And Finally…

For all you writers out there, what methods do you use to edit? What works and what doesn’t for you?

 

My Boyf

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It’s a night out with the girls, and it’s great fun as always. We all gush over how gorgeous we’re looking, and all the ups and downs since we last met up. I love that part of the evening, when we’re all on a high just seeing each other, pooling sympathy and praise, bathing in wine and bawdy laughter. It’s the next part I don’t like, once the alcohol starts to properly kick in, and the conversation gets nasty, bitchy. They each have a standard boyfriend, with the usual damning flaws. They seem to hate them, but all they want to do is get married to these same men that they hate.

“Oh my God, how can anyone’s feet smell so bad? Is it a disease? Should I get him a doctor?”

“What I don’t get is how he can just sit in filth and not notice, and then when I complain, he asks me what needs doing! Like I’m the only one with eyes!”

“Just once, just once I’d like to know what he thinks about something real, not football, not a film, but real life, real people.”

“And what about you Lisa, how is your man?” and they all turn to me with a sneer, as if they think I’m intimidated by their miserable lives. They don’t even get the stupidity of thinking that the men they spend hours slagging off are superior to my Martin.

“He’s fine. He’s great, actually,” I say, wanting to pay tribute to the man I love, while also wanting to move the conversation on as soon as possible. I know where this could end up, and I want it to stop.

“Well, I suppose you don’t have to worry about smelly feet!” says Jennifer. “And oh my God, that reminds me, do you know what John said to me last night?” The gossip moves on, and it’s a relief.

Opening up my front door that night, I get that snuggly feeling of home. Even as I push the door open, the hall lights come on, and Martin’s voice calls from the sitting room,

“Hi honey, you’re home!” He loves making that joke, every time, and I love him for it.

“Hiya!” I shout back, as I pull off my boots and hang up my coat.

“I’ll stick the kettle on, you could probably do with a nice cup of tea.” He says, and I hear the kettle click on in the kitchen.

“You know me so well,” I say, collapsing onto the sofa, as soothing music starts playing over the speakers. Awkwardly he sits down next to me, puts an arm around me as I snuggle up to his chest. He smells like cinnamon and plastic, that warm, comforting smell.

“What’s this? I like it.” Martin always knows what music I like, it’s part of his programming.

“Beethoven. Did you have a good night out?”

“Hmm, I guess. They were all bitching about their men, as usual.”

“Saaaad,” says Martin, he’s been programmed with eighties slang, it always makes me laugh.

“I don’t ever bitch about you though,” I say, “you’re perfect.”

Martin knows he doesn’t need to answer, instead, without moving, he switches on the TV, it’s that evening’s episode of Coronation Street I’d forgotten was on.

“Some easy entertainment, just what I need,” I say, hugging him tighter, a warmth glows from his stomach as the element heats up, and he hugs me tighter back. I don’t really need to tell him he’s perfect, he knows it, he was programmed to be.

I’m Back! And I Have News!

Hello fellow blogeezers, I’ve missed you! I haven’t been around for a few weeks because I’ve been up to something.

For the last three weeks I’ve been melting my brain trying to fathom the twisty-turny world of self-publishing and now I’m ready to tell you my secret:

On the 6th of June I’m going to release my new book

Peddling Doomsday.

It’s the story of a Deirdre who joins a doomsday cult led by the charismatic preacher, Myra. But once inside Deirdre learns that good and evil are not as clear cut as she’d hoped.

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Any excuse for a monkey. This one is inquisitive

I think at least a few of you have or will self-publish, so over the next few months, I’m going to be sharing everything I learn, the mistakes I’ve made (so you can avoid them) and what works and what doesn’t with promotion. It’s a scary process, but people on here and Goodreads and been extremely helpful, so at least we’re all in this together.

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Photo shows monkeys all in it together, so is entirely relevant

I’ll still be posting stories and thoughts, and I still welcome your comments.

If you want to sign up at the side for email updates, then I’ll be using emails to send out additional information that I don’t want to make completely public. Today’s email is going to have the cover reveal. If you do join, I won’t spam you and will keep emails relevant and interesting – if you don’t want to be sent self-publishing emails, then let me know on petra_jacob at outlook dot com and I can put you on a stories-only list.

 

 I’ve also got a lot of catching up to do with all your blogs, so please be patient.