3 Editing Rounds to Polish Your Draft: Self-Publishing 101
Editing is an essential part of writing, but it can also take up a lot of time and money if you work without a goal. Authors self-edit in different ways before sending work off to a professional editor. Some do a single read-through and fix problems as they see them. Others read their manuscript over multiple times, trying to fix it until it reaches perfection.
Is there any ideal way to self-edit?
While your individual technique might vary even from book to book, there are some things you can do that will greatly help your progress. One of these is editing with intent—choosing what aspect of your book you want to fix and not letting other weaknesses or improvements distract you.
Editing with intent can be done over as many or as few rounds as you want. Are multiple rounds necessary? Well, they’re certainly helpful. Here are three goals you could have in mind when you read through your manuscript.
You might already know that something is wrong with your book. Maybe you didn’t wrap up a plothole, or maybe there was a detail that changed while you wrote. Maybe there were a few chapters where the tension lagged too much or where the story got off track.
Enter the continuity edit! This revision round looks at the structural integrity of your book and fixes gaping errors. Don’t worry about typos. You’ll have plenty of time to fix those later. Make a list of all those big areas you’ve been meaning to fix up, and work through them one by one.
Line editing gives your book the flavor you’re aiming for—scary, sexy, thrilling, or horrifying. This is the time to give you dialogue the extra kick it needs to come alive and fill out your atmosphere with colorful and memorable details.
Line editing can be fun because it’s not so much about fixing problems with your book—it’s about making it shine and bringing out its potential. It’s a good idea to read this part aloud and ramp up anything that falls flat. You’ll catch a lot this way and can have fun with the theatrical elements.
I’m not necessarily talking about standard proofreading here. You can hire a proofreader for that, though it’s always a good idea to read through for typos before you send it off. Instead, I’m talking about “proofing”: reviewing a proof copy of your own book.
Usually when you publish a book, you’ll be invited to review a proof copy online (or order a physical copy if you’re publishing a paperback or hardback). When this happens, it pays to go the extra mile. If you can order a physical copy, do—and read it cover to cover. If not, download your proof to your preferred digital reading device.
At this stage, you’re looking for anything you can spot: technical errors, formatting glitches, awkward spacing, etc. Don’t be surprised if you find more than you were expecting. Remember that your book isn’t done quite yet, so don’t feel bad if you need to drag yourself back to the keyboard to fix a few issues that cropped up.
Tips for Self-Revision
Don’t get lost in revision. It’s only a small part of the writing process, and if you’re unsure about whether to change a detail, it’s probably best to let it through. This is about bringing out the high points in your book, making it fun and engaging for your readers.
How do you like to revise your books? Sign in to share your thoughts in the comments below, or click on the blue button to join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for further discussion.