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?

 

37 thoughts on “Editing Your Novel: Tips and Troubles

  1. All great points! I find reading my work out loud really helps find clunky phrases. If anyone is looking for beta-readers, the writing community on Twitter has been a great resource for finding them. I’d also add, try finding a critique partner. Not only is the other person’s feedback wonderful for you, giving feedback can also help strengthen your own writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t know that about Twitter, at some point I will have to join up, but I’m dragging my feet. I’m with you on the critique partner (although I didn’t know that phrase, very useful). Picking apart someone else’s writing is an excellent way of understanding what can go wrong.

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  2. Great advice, Petra. I can another tip – to leave a time gap before the proofreading, and do it many times – absolute tedium, I know. I found more and more silly little grammar mistakes, when I thought there were none! And I’m a very thorough person. I went back in and put them right after publishing, but it was an unpleasant experience and rather stressful. Can’t wait to read your new novel, love the theme!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, time! That’s a great tip. Your book seemed pretty flawless to me, but it’s good to know it’s possible to go back and fix things. And thank you for the support, I hope it lives up to expectations ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I use Grammarly and I also hope for the best. I have had people saying ‘I’ll read it!’ etc but then don’t have time etc. My Dad read my last book, yes I needed help with what did and didn’t happen in 1960s cycling, but wow it got on his nerves -and mine if I’m honest, telling me words don’t exist when they do… moral of the story, don’t use your family? Having said that my sister was quite good, sisters are honest. Thanks for the advice, might use the above mentioned groups xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve had some very unhelpful feedback in the past, although never someone telling me that words don’t exist! Your sister sounds good though, honest is what you need. I feel I’ve overused friends this time around, so I’m going to try and search a bit further afield next time, that’s where beta readers will be useful. I think I wouldn’t mind being one myself, but it always comes down to time.

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  4. Using a text to speech website is nicer for me than reading aloud ๐Ÿ™‚ Also a tip I’ve seen a few times and which works quite well, is changing the medium. Read in your word processing programme. Change the font size and style. Change the programme/put it on google docs. Print it out. Read it on your e-reader. Anything to change the work from the familar thing you’ve been working on to make it more like something you’re reading.
    Thanks for the tips and for acknowledging that paying for a professional editor is out of the question for those of us with low incomes who still want to consider self-publishing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Some great suggestions there, and you’re right, it’s about making your own writing seem unfamiliar so that you pay attention, very well put.

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  5. The reading aloud thing is so damn important for me. I’ve caught numerous problems that way, and I told another writer friend about it when I was beta reading her work and it was super choppy. I also change up the font from what I used to write it. I remembering reading about that and gave it a try. It actually worked because it makes the letters look different so you pay more attention to them.

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  6. Good tips! Iโ€™d say that having people who donโ€™t like your work edit for you is not always going to be helpful, though, because they might just not be the audience for your book and their edits will take it farther away from what itโ€™s supposed to be. Iโ€™ve found a good place to find feedback or beta readers is Reddit, at least for first round edits.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I didn’t know there were beta readers on Reddit! Interesting!
      I get what you’re saying about your audience, so yes, advice from people who have different tastes to you is something you have to be careful of. But I’ve still found that people who don’t like my writing tend to spot genuine flaws in the plot/characters that people who do like it, don’t.
      Thank you for the insights ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  7. All of this is so very true–especially the need to be thick-skinned when passing off your baby to be read by others…and my biggest struggle BY FAR is trying to come up with the blurb (or the dreaded ELEVATOR PITCH–cue scary music). I’m very afraid that, as you mentioned, the reason I am struggling so mightily with this is that there is something intrinsically wrong with my storyline…thanks so much for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Blurb is really tricky! I’ll be writing a bit more about it soon, because it’s such a struggle. I hope the plot troubles turn out to be small and easy to solve, good luck.
      And thank you for stopping by! ๐Ÿ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I have created a group of few ‘talented’ Friends :p where we share our work and ask others for their feedback. This really helps as all of them belong to editing industry. We also share resources and at times paid tools as we cant afford to spend separately. You can always become a part of facebook groups and communities and pick the best ones to contact personally.

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    1. A group is a great idea! I studied writing when I was younger and one of the best aspects of it was hearing what people thought. It’s all too easy to get caught up in your own head with writing. Thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

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  9. Thank you for this post! I’ve always been struggling with the process of editing, wondering whether my way to do it was right. This post helped me a lot, because my editing is similar to what you wrote ๐Ÿ˜Š When I finish a first draft, I let it rest some time, and then do some self editing, making it into a second draft (that hopefully is better than the first one ๐Ÿ˜‚). After that I give it to some friends who are constant readers, so they know how good books work. I think what’s important is that they are HONEST friends. So some of my friends can’t do it, they’re just to nice. Because as you said, the ones who give you some constructive criticism are the best ones. I know my second draft will never be perfect, so if someone says there’s nothing to improve, they’re not being honest, or they simply don’t know because they don’t read enough. Thankfully I have some very honest friends who tell me point-blank if something needs improvement. Then I write down everything they said and create a third draft with that in mind. After that comes polishing. That’s how I do it ๐Ÿ˜Š

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That sounds like a good system, and that you have a good attitude to the criticism, I know some people struggle to hear it. Good luck with the writing, and I’m really glad I’ve been helpful ๐Ÿ˜€

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      1. Of course it’s hard to hear criticism, but I know it can only help me improve my writing, so I take it as a welcome helper ๐Ÿ˜ Thank you so much and the same to you!

        Liked by 1 person

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