Note: this piece is geared toward writers interested in self-publishing. Find other pieces on self-publishing here.
As I mentioned in my last post, professionalism in self-publishing is of the utmost importance. No one – especially a reader that has never heard of you – is going to pay to read something that is less than professional in quality. This is a no-brainer when it comes to things such as cover design, formatting, and grammar/spelling (which your proofreader should help you catch!). But what I’m talking about today is something a little more substantial: the quality of your writing.
So why do you need to edit?
Most of us writers have a hard time believing our work is good – or there’s that small percentage of us that think every word we write is perfection. Despite which camp you’re in, I have news for you: your work CAN improve, but only if you edit it.
Very few writers can pen a flawless novel the first time around (and even those manuscripts would see improvement with an edit). All those best-selling authors your adore? They go through a mind-numbing amount of edits and revisions and rewrites on their book – and for a good reason.
In revisiting your work, I promise that you will find stray storylines, extraneous scenes, plot holes, and a fair share of typos. You may even have revelations, realizing that this scene should be moved closer to the beginning of the story…or maybe your main character wouldn’t really be all that irrational in the middle of the book.
You need to edit to ensure that there is consistency, that your manuscript flows well, and that everything comes across as professional as possible.
Your writing is your product. And the better your product, the more your customers will want to buy.
The Seven Steps of Editing
Everyone works in different ways. I prefer to break up the edits into rounds of it so as to lessen the daunting task of reworking an entire manuscript in one go. Below is my personal routine for editing.
- Self-Edit/Rewrite/Proofread (Round 1) as soon as 1st draft is done
- Take break from manuscript for a couple weeks (work on something else)
- Self-Edit (Round 2)
- Give Manuscript to Beta-Readers/Editor
- Self-Edit (Round 3)
- Give Manuscript to Proofreader
- Self-Edit (Round 4) – just tiny changes at this point!
Getting the Final Say
During the editing process, keep in mind that you gave your manuscript to your beta-readers/editors for a reason: so that they can look at it with an objective eye and give you honest feedback. Don’t dismiss glaring issues they have with your manuscript. BUT, as an indie author, you get to decide what your final manuscript looks like. If you receive feedback that doesn’t ring true with your manuscript or you feel would compromise the story, you don’t have to act on it. YOU get to decide what the book becomes.
A Word About Over-Editing
Sometimes I repeat certain steps in my 7-step list above. I might have beta readers re-read something after I’ve incorporated some of their initial suggestions. Or, I might do two or three rounds of self-editing between steps 4 and 6. Only you know if your manuscript is ready to publish. But there IS such a thing as over-editing. It’s all too easy to keep stripping away at your story (or adding too much fluff or changing your major plot) until you have a mess that requires even more editing.
So there you have it! Go out and edit your manuscripts. It may be an intimidating task, but you’re up to it! You wrote a whole book, after all. Now it’s just time to pretty it up.