I submitted an entry to the Amazon Breakthrough novel contest this year. I was delighted to find that I can edit my entry up until 1/27, which means, yes, I get a little more time to hunt for typos. Woo!
I thought I would write something about my editing process, just because that’s what I’m doing. I’ve written about it before in the past, but methods change.
This is not to say that my stuff is 100 percent error-free. Please trust me when I say, I’m perfectly aware that I screw up sometimes. I would like to think I get things right more often than I get them wrong.
That being said, this is what the most recent work has gone through and continues to go through at this moment. I hope someone might get some ideas for their own edits, so that I may feel like a superhero word nerd.
Step One of the edit. Distance is extremely helpful. I used to wait between the rough draft and the first rewrite, however, I have changed my mind. When I reach the end of the rough draft, the story is still fresh in my mind. I go back to the beginning and see if everything vibes. I burn the book to the ground if I need to rebuild. This is primarily a story edit, but I fix any grammar issues I find as well, mostly because I can’t help myself, plus, what if I don’t catch them on the next read-thru?
Next, I walk away from it. I work on something else while my manuscript cools off in the virtual drawer. This is usually when I crank out another rough draft.
I return, eventually. This is an evaluation. What parts of the book did I skip over because I was in a hurry? Does this make sense? That’s a big one. Sometimes, I’ll read a sentence or a paragraph and wonder what the hell I meant. Did Brain go on autopilot again?
This is the read-thru that requires significant patience. I need to look at the work as objectively as possible in order to determine where the weak points lie. I look for repetitive words and phrases, also a biggie. In this most recent book, I discovered that while writing the rough draft, I developed an obsession with the word ‘few’. Why? I have no idea. Perhaps I was lacking something. I deleted a bunch of ‘fews’.
Oh no, now the word sounds weird. Few few few. Almost like the laser sound effect pew pew pew. Ack.
After another, probably, 2 read-thrus, the manuscript travels to the editor. She reads it, giving me distance once again while it’s gone. During this time, I probably edit the other story I wrote.
I get it back from the editor and make the needed changes. Then I read it again, this time for minor phrasing issues and typos. I catch problems I probably should have caught before it went to the editor.
A couple more read-thrus and typo checks ensue. I try to keep myself from tumbling into obsession.
The last read-thru is a hands-off edit, which means I try to fix typos, only. I find other minor issues, too, but ideally, it’s supposed to be a typo search. That’s what I’m doing right now.
I’ve also been using some online resources pretty heavily, just to double-check various items.
Oxford dictionary and sometimes Merriam Webster
Wikipedia if I need a visual and/or the word is out of the ordinary
White smoke online grammar check for the occasional, questionable sentence. I don’t know how accurate it is, but it makes me feel better.
And Google for questions like – can I start a sentence with (insert word type here)?
I’ve also run the Microsoft Word spelling and grammar checker multiple times. It catches some mistakes, but it isn’t as good as one might expect it to be for what their software costs.
And then, I reach the time to let the book go. Born freeeeee! Free as the wind blows. As free as the grass grows.
I’m getting there soon. Very soon. It’s a weird feeling after working on the book for so long.