Self-editing your novel

Library Reading Room

There are steps to editing your book that a writer can and should take prior to submitting manuscripts for publishing. Why risk an unwanted rejection or two or ten? The goal is for your story to be published. Here are some things I did that I found helpful.

Use resources- There are many books on the market that will help you as the writer to edit your book prior to submission. My favorite happened to be Browne and King: Self-editing for fiction writers. Others are Eats, shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss and The elements of style by Strunk and White. Read them. You and your prospective editor will be glad you did.

Beta Readers- After workshopping, editing, and re-editing, I gave it to a couple of people to read including my daughter. She has no qualms about pointing out my faults. She had a grammar teacher extraordinaire and knows grammar. Find ‘my daughter’ in your life. There is one. Ask for help.

Read Aloud- Reading your piece out loud can help shine a beacon of light on your errors. Do you want this? Yes. It may just not make sense when your ears listen to what you’ve read.

Be honest- Embrace your editor within.  Just because you like a particular passage in your story, ask yourself if it truly belongs there. I had to whittle away things that I thought were witty, passions of mine, and situations that weren’t really germane to my novel. Think of it like cleaning the clutter. The house looks so much better without it.

Hide your manuscript– Put your ms in a drawer for a while or keep that file closed on your computer. It can be horrifying when you look at it again and see all the errors in it. Yes. That piece you were so enamored with might be awful.

If you decide to hire an editor prior to submitting, I bet you’ll find one who will be happy to work with you in getting your manuscript into tip-top form for publication. An editor who is interested in your work, what you have to say, and how you say it will not be turned off by some errors. Do your best but don’t get paranoid about your submission. There wouldn’t be editors if writers didn’t need them. My editor helped me say what I needed to in a different way. Let’s face it. I’d been staring at my manuscript for a few years. Her eyes were fresh and it shows. Authors who self-publish might also try some of these steps. Unfortunately, many people can’t find publishers because the work isn’t edited well. Stepping out of our egos takes some ego strength.

Lastly, accept the number of revision your work may need. I spoke to a young writer recently who thought that ‘real authors’ write their books in a jiffy. Not so. Writing is a process not an event. Have fun.When you’ve polished your work to the point that you think it’s ready for submission, bite the bullet and do it.

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