That sentence is a mess and it illustrates what we want to talk about in this post, the importance of editing. If you picked up a book and it had copy even a quarter as bad as the text above, you would likely not even bother finishing it. If you did finish it, you may never purchase anything by that author again. Writers should take the saying “you never get a second chance at a first impression” to heart.
So how should you go about making sure your work is the best it can be before you release it to the public? Here are a slew of tips to help you edit your manuscript into a masterpiece.
#1: Put your story away
You may be itching to show your story to the world (and reap the benefits of your hard work), but putting your draft aside for awhile will help you to have enough distance from your passion project to approach the editing process with clear eyes.
#2: AUDIT grammar and spelling
Word processors will check for grammar and spelling errors but you have to seriously scan your document yourself too. You cannot trust your computer to catch everything. Consult Grammar Girl if you have any questions about spelling, syntax and grammar rules.
#3: Get out of the writer’s seat
Do not assume your readers have the same knowledge you have about your characters and setting. Think critically about if you are giving enough backstory so the reader can follow your story, but not too much that readers are overwhelmed and don’t have the chance to use their own imaginations. It’s a delicate balancing act.
#5: REVIEW POV consistency
Check that the point of view is throughout your story. Unless there’s a clear plan for it to change and that adjustment will be clear to the reader, go through your story and adjust pronouns so your POV is in sync.
#6: Excise superfluous words
Start crossing words out that seem redundant and see if your meaning remains clear. If it does, ditch the extra stuff. You’ll find your work is stronger when you are being as concise as possible. Let your voice be heard throughout instead of filling lines with extra muck.
#7: SURVEY STORY flow & PACING
Make sure your story seamlessly flows throughout your writing. Your reader should always be driven to turn the page. Go through your work again. Are there spots where the story hits a tedious lull? See what you can do to punch things up. Replace areas where the writing is passive with active phrases. For example, change ‘The window was knocked on by Sheila, who was outside’ vs. ‘Sheila knocked on the window from outside.’
#8: Get outside help
This is a good book to guide your editing. Or hire a professional editor. They can help you find spelling and grammatical errors AND can give you input on flow, structure, character development, etc. And have willing friends or family members read your draft. Take their feedback seriously and don’t be defensive.
I’ve heard it said that everyone has at least one story in them. Maybe it is time you let your story out.