After the conclusion of NaNoWriMo, I’m sure a lot of you have a lot of material to go through and make into pure gold. Editing is a process that is just as important as the writing itself. It’s what makes our work better and more accessible to our readers.
First off here is a little joke/truth:
All jokes aside, this is what your book is going to look like by the time it is all said and done. If it doesn’t look like that then you either got it right the first time (which is really rare) or you’re not being honest/need to get someone else to look at it to see what you’ve been missing. And I know the picture above looks super intimidating, but you’ve honestly done the bulk of the work already, you’re just making it prettier. Plus all that red means that you have something brilliant in the works, but needs a bit more work on it to make it even more amazing.
Now there are a lot of different ways to go about editing your brain child. Here’s just something to keep in mind when you’re going through your work. These symbols are universal for a reason.
So, I know there is a lot of advice floating out there about how and when you should edit. For the most part, I agree that you should edit at the end of your writing journey. It should be the last thing you do. Do I always follow that – no, I don’t. Do what’s right for you.
I do, however, reread my piece of writing multiple times before I make all my corrections. In Canada, we have our national editing board (editors.ca) and they like to certify editors in the following four categories:
- Proofreading: to detect any errors in spelling, punctuation, or grammar. It may also involve checking of different elements of a layout (such as headlines, paragraphs, illustrations, and colors) for their correct formatting.
- Copy Editing: the process of reviewing and correcting written material to improve accuracy, readability, and fitness for its purpose, and to ensure that it is free of error, omission, inconsistency, and repetition.
- Stylistic Editing: Clarifying meaning, eliminating jargon, smoothing language and other non-mechanical line-by-line editing. May include checking or correcting reading level; creating or recasting tables and/or figures; negotiating changes with author.
- Structural Editing: Clarifying and/or reorganizing a manuscript for content and structure. Changes may be suggested to or drafted for the author.
During my university days, I would do this for my writing group subconsciously. I would read through for stylistic and structural problems before looking for the grammar, punctuation, etc. I usually read through a piece at least twice. That’s also what I do for my own writing – I reread and correct certain things per read.
Some other suggestions:
- Writing groups! They are amazing! You get multiple viewpoints and points of feedback from your group. You can do this at any time during the process of writing or editing. they often find mistakes that you wouldn’t have. They’re also great shoulders to cry upon as you go through this.
- A trusted friend or relative. They’re awesome for catching mistakes and for looking at things as a reader does. They’re also great for being a shoulder to cry on during this process. Here are some questions to ask them about your writing:
- Print it off. I find I miss more mistakes on the computer than I do with a paper copy. I don’t know why, but it happens.
- Use mark up changes on you Word/Google/etc documents. it gives you a more visual way to mark where you’ve gone wrong and to see what needs to be changed.
- Have a stylistic guide/dictionary/thesaurus beside you or some automated service. It helps if you’re reusing a word too much and need a new one, need to check definitions, or don’t know how to use a comma properly. They’re there to help so use them! *Warning about the automated services: they will not catch everything. Make sure you do your own checks as well.
- Rewrite. Make your changes but then print it off and rewrite the entire thing. I know this sound like hell and way too much work, but you catch things that you wouldn’t have seen any other way.
- Read it aloud. I find this definitely helps for dialogue. Tape you voice and play it back. You’ll find out if you’re speaking like a robot or a human being. You’ll also catch weird phrasing.
- Send your manuscript to an editor. Do this after you’ve done a lot more work on it. They’re there for a last time check-up before officially submitting it to a publisher.
If you have any other suggestions than the ones I’ve put up above please let me know! I’m always looking for new ways to improve my own editing skills.
As of next week, we will do a brief outline of publishing and your options for that. I will go more in depth about it in the new year. Don’t forget to also tune in here on Monday for a Christmas special from me. If you don’t tune in, I do wish everyone a Merry Christmas and I hope your day is stellar.
Happy Editing! Until Monday!