You may have an editor at a publishing house, large or independent. You may have dedicated readers who edit for you. You may have a critique group who gives you advice. You may be a loner on a mountain top with no one to turn to for help. No matter what your situation, you have to edit what you write.
We all do. Even editors must edit their own work. Sure, you’re still going to turn to those trusted readers or a professional editor, but before (and after) you do, you need to do some self-editing. Find the mistakes that you can – the left out words, the plot strings that you totally forgot to tie up, the words that on second look don’t make sense, the additions that you put in then forgot to change in already written material and thus the best friend is killed off only to reappear alive in a later chapter, and other things. Find all the errors you can before you send it to me or some other editor. It’ll save you money, for one thing.
Here are some suggestions:
1. When you’re ready to start editing, read the full manuscript. Do not stop to make the edits right then. Mark the section in the margin and make a quick note to yourself with a red pen or the Comment tool so you can go back to it.
2. After that read-through, go back to your margin notes and begin making corrections. Some of them may require big re-writes. Some may mean you’ll have to come up with alternates to the passive “to be” verb. You may have to combine two characters into one. And so on.
3. Set aside the re-worked manuscript for as long as you can (for some that’s easy; but for others it can be like neglecting a baby). Then edit again.
4. If you always edit on the computer, print it out and edit with a pen.
5. Another idea is to record yourself reading your manuscript then listen to it. You’ll catch things that you didn’t see when reading on paper.
Here’s something I don’t advise:
I hear some people telling writers to read their work backward, word by word. I say, Don’t do that. That would be like reading gibberish.
Why torture yourself? That’s what editors are for.
author, blogger, freelance editor and writing coach. She teaches public speaking as well as writing and marketing workshops. In addition, her free ezine, Doing It Write, which goes out to subscribers around the globe, is now in its twelfth year of publication. You can follow Helen on Twitter or connect with her on Facebook and LinkedIn – or catch her April 30, 2011 at Books 'n Authors 'n All That Jazz in Weatherford, Texas, where she and Sylvia Dickey Smith will be talking about “Jazzing Up Your Characters.”