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?