books, indie books, indie writer, stories, writing

The Icing on the Story is Editing

IMG_20181119_191005_059You have done it. You have written your first novel and now you want to self-publish. Welcome to an exciting time. Here are some friendly suggestions from someone who has been there and done that.

You are going to hear this a lot, only because it is true and shows the difference between an amateur and someone who wants to be successful. Make sure your book has been edited by an editor. Not by you, by a true editor.

First, find a Development Editor. This person reads over the story and finds plot holes, places in the story that don’t need to be there, the general flow of the story, and character development. Have too much backstory in the first chapter? Have enough backstory throughout? Have you forgotten to tie up an end to a character? Does each chapter close in a way to draw the reader into the next? And are there any other story problems.

Next edit would be the Copy Line Edit.  This is where an editor goes over word choice, rhyming sentences, and repeated words. Have you used too many she’s and he’s in paragraphs? Have you started too many paragraphs the same way? Do you have a favorite word you overuse? This edit can be done through an online program called Grammarly. I have found it invaluable. I have a habit of starting all my sentences in the same way sometimes and using the same pet words over and over and over. I think you see my point. Notice the last three sentences all started with “I”.

Then there is the Proof Edit. At this point, it is about grammar and punctuation. You can try depending on a program like Grammarly to do this as well. The problem is sentence structure. You can have a correct sentence, but it may not make much sense. Every writer has a ‘voice’. Something that is unique to each of us in the way we string together words. How we talk, how we think is an individual thing. A program won’t pick up on that. Another human can.

Finally, create a group of Beta Readers. You find these saintly souls in writing groups. They are your peers. People who will read your story, usually in trade for you returning the favor. Don’t ask your family to do this. You need someone who can be dirt honest with you. Someone who reads a lot and knows what they like in a story. They will find all those typo errors that may have been missed in the first three edits. They will tell you of any problems the story may have, like where it bogs down, or where a character may need a little tweaking. This is the opinion stage and can be quite harsh. This is where you really must be an adult and have a discerning ear. To hear the critiques without becoming insulted. You must be in a learning mode. Hear the opinions and pick through the ones you feel are right.

As a writer, I know when I have a rough patch of dialog. Or when a plot is thin, or I have just been lazy and not written it as well as I should. There are those “little darlings” that we think makes us sound like a literary genius but creates yawns or confusion for our readers. I always know when my beta reader is spot on. They always find the places I knew where not as good as they should be. Sometimes, it may be an opinion on the subject and you will instinctively know whether you need to change it or not. But be humble. Go into it for the learning.

We have all been here. Writers of all ages, education, and walks of life, we know how it is. You have poured over it, certain that you have caught every mistake. Aunt Bertha loves it. Mom loves it. Everyone is excited. Well, until your editor is excited, it’s not ready. Why do you think the publishing houses hire editors? You don’t see your mistakes. Simple as that.

The greatest complaint out there is that self-published authors do not edit their books, creating a poor quality read. Don’t give the community a bad rep. It is a little more expensive, but it is well worth the investment.

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