Become a Better Writer

The 5-Phase Self Edit

by Sondi Warner (2)

–Sondi Warner, Writer/Blogger for Wrought Iron Reads

The 5 Phase Self Edit

You’re an indie author on a tight budget, and words like “hire an editor” make you cringe. Sure, you’d hire an editor if you had that kind of money. Since you don’t, you’re stuck squinting at the computer, hunting for errors in your perfect writing and having a hard time finding many.

 

Although you may have encountered line editors who charge whopping rates, there are in fact editors who are willing to work with you to achieve a reasonable middle ground. You might also consider breaking your project up into smaller, more affordable chunks. Holding off on hitting publish isn’t the worst thing. It’s much worse to publish too quickly and get Amazon’s glaring “This book is riddled with errors” message. Worse, yet, to read a review that slams you for saying ‘here’ when you meant ‘her.’

The following is for writers with absolutely no money for an editor and no likelihood of raising money for an editor (as well as writers who want to present the best book forward when querying agents or submitting to publications and competitions.) For the budget impaired, there is a way to DIY, but it will take time, and you better be ready to check your ego at the door. Ready? Here goes:

Phase One: Put it away. Bryan Klems of The Writer’s Den from Writer’s Digest suggests, “Put it away for three weeks and then reread, making notes on its strengths and weaknesses, asking yourself what’s missing, and flagging places where you find yourself skimming. Then rewrite the manuscript at least once—twice is better.”

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Tears? There’s no crying in editing!

Phase Two: Don’t cry. Put it away like I said, rewrite like Bryan said, and then put it away again. Has it been another 3 weeks? Okay, now you’re ready to start editing. Told you this would take time.

Phase Three: Get some tools. This list from TheWritelife.com gives you some options to choose from. This is not your final step. This is like your ego slayer. At this point in life, you still feel your book is perfect. That’s okay. We all do, but it’s not.

Phase Four: After you’ve run your manuscript through your tool of choice, use Track Changes and make the appropriate corrections. Then, you need to do another read-through to check for any plot inconsistencies, dialogue problems, underdeveloped characters, etc. Here’s an idea of the kinds of questions you need to answer:

  • Is your heroine likeable? Does your hero make a believable transformation from beginning to end of the book?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of the plot? Are there any inconsistencies?
  • Do the facts check out? Is the weather in Zanzibar in December like you described it? How long does it take to drive from Los Angeles to Seattle?

Phase Five: After you’ve worked on consistency, plot and character development, print out a copy of your book and read it out loud. Sometimes hearing the words makes us look at them differently. Another tip is to edit line by line, using a blank page on top of your manuscript to hone in on fine details. Make notes in the margins to correct later.

When you’re done with these five phases, if you haven’t rewritten your book around five times, then you probably skipped a few steps, which you can’t afford to do. Invest this time into your book, and I guarantee you’ll transform your writing and boost the amount of positive feedback you get.

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Selfie of self-editing accomplishment. 🙂

Tell me your self-editing tips in the comment section below or hit me up on Twitter @WIRUniverse, #iEditMe!

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