Some writers love editing, some don’t. Personally, I find editing my own work one of the most tedious tasks out there. When I want to be writing, I have hours and hours worth of grammar checking and tedious sentence editing ahead of me. With writing, editing is a necessary evil. You don’t want to spend $500+ for each editor to polish up your work. The more editing you do yourself, the less you spend on other editors. The reality is, you will probably spend some money on beta readers and editors, but at least after polishing it well yourself you can save yourself the majority of the cost. I have done an extensive amount of editing over the years on my works so here are my top tips about editing your book.
Tip One: Read out loud
Reading your manuscript out loud makes it so much easier to pick up on the errors that you might not see just looking over it with your eyes. If you have already editing the whole book at least once, this makes it much easier to pick up the errors as well- they will be less obvious, grammatical errors. Maybe, your dialogue doesn’t sound appropriate for the tone of the chapter. Maybe, there is a better way to word the sentence, but it looks fine on paper. While reading the whole book aloud (especially if you have 90k+ words) will take a long time, it will allow you to really make an impact on the editing of your book.
Look for passive verbs such as “Were” and “Was”
While passive verbs are necessary for writers to have in their toolbox, using the same verbs over and over can get redundant. It’s the same thing as having a few sentences in a row that have the same word in them. Passive verbs are necessary, but make sure that you aren’t using them too often. Comb through your manuscript simply searching for “was” and “were” and see if, in the context of the sentence, you could change it to an active verb. Active verbs have the ability to grad your reader so much easier than using these passive verbs and it will make your writing sound stronger. You don’t need to remove these verbs, but try to make more of your sentence verbs active if it makes sense in the sentences.
Create a plan
Have you ever set yourself on a project and had no idea where to start? I know I have. Editing is a huge project with many different areas to check. I recommend that each time you go through your manuscript that you have different goals. The first time, maybe focus on grammar, changing passive verbs to active verbs, etc. The second time, maybe look at character development, dialogue, etc. Having goals while editing will allow you to make the impact on your manuscript that you want before you publish or hand it off to another editor. If you just edit with no goals, you will still be able to pull out some of them, but you won’t have the same level of focus or attention to the certain areas you want to improve or work on.
Get Beta Readers
I recommend getting beta readers after you have finished at least one (maybe two-three) edits of your book yourself. What is a beta reader? There are paid or unpaid “test readers” of your book that read through it and give you feedback on a certain set of categories. You can have your friends/family be beta readers, but I recommend making sure that you choose people who will use the “tough love” approach for you novel. The truth is, your novel can’t improve if you don’t get honest feedback from them so make sure you choose people willing to be honest about the strengths and weaknesses of your novel. Have a set of categories you want your beta readers to give feedback on, such as the likability of characters, plot development, etc.
Get Professional Editing
After combing through your novel several times, maybe getting a beta reader or two, this is the step that will take your novel that last step. You can choose to be the sole editor of your book, but without a doubt you will miss some things. Having a professional (or freelance) editor will help take your manuscript that last step. Editing can be expensive or cheap, depending on which route you go. Most of the full-time editors or experienced editors can charge more for their work, but they will also be well-equipped to comb out all of those errors due to their experience. Freelance editors are cheaper typically, but might not have the same level of experience or quality. The choice is really yours. I highly recommend getting at least one editor to comb through your book to really strengthen that manuscript.
These are just a few of my recommendations for improving your editing skills and putting those final touches on your manuscript. There are kinds of different things that work for people, however, so what works for me might not work for you. I recommend doing the best you can and be patient. Editing is a learning process. You aren’t going to be an expert at first, but you certainly will get better.