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Indie Author Tips: How to Tame the Editing Beast

Updated: Mar 11, 2021

You’ve done it! After months of using words to paint pictures and crafting a story you can be proud of, your book is complete. Now, it’s time to put on your battle gear and face the beast - EDITING! It truly is the biggest battle you face when on your journey to getting published. If you are an independent author like me, most of the editing process depends on the sharpness of your blade and your willingness to heed the advice of others. Even if you have gobs of money to hire someone to do battle for you, you still have to get your hands dirty.

I’ve learned lots in the two books I’ve published and ran into roadblocks that I didn’t have to. That’s the life of an Indie Author! Here are seven tips to help Tame the Editing Beast!

Before we get started, understand the reasons you are editing. The simple answer is to make sure you’ve addressed grammatical issues, but you also must consider understanding your plot and filling plot holes. This post will primarily address the grammatical side, but will talk about some other issues as well.

Step Away

After you commit that last keystroke to your masterpiece, avoid the urge to jump into the editing process. Since you’ve invested so much of yourself into your manuscript, you need to create some space between you and your work. Even the great Stephen King suggests taking a six-week break to clear his mind of the book. He’s even moved forward with other writing projects. But allowing space helps in seeing holes in writing and grammatical errors. King (can you tell I’m a fan) described that you will spend so much time looking at the trees you’ve created that stepping back allows you to look at the forest.

If you are anything like me, you won’t wait six weeks to start the editing process, but stepping away helps to see your story with fresh eyes!

Read It Aloud

In my classroom, I teach my students about modalities. Visual. Auditory. Kinesthetic. I tell them that when they are editing their work silently; they are only using their visual modality. However, if they read it aloud, they now include auditory as well. When including my auditory modality, I find more mistakes. Since you are familiar with your work, your brain won’t catch some mistakes just using your visual modality. But when you hear the mistake, you are more likely to catch it.

Use Editing Software

I used to use Grammarly, but an author friend of mine, Jerry Roth, told me about ProWritingAid, and it changed everything! Very much like Grammarly, you can download the app to your computer or writing software so editing can happen in actual time. It picks up verb usage issues, passive verbs, punctuation issues, etc. and each issue the software finds has a video and explanation on why the change is suggested. I’m the type of person who hates to pay for anything I can get for free, but I’m convinced that ProWritingAid is the best out there. I subscribed for the yearly subscription for $79. There’s also a monthly subscription for $20 or a lifetime one for $320. Does it catch everything? No. But it is intuitive, runs reports, and has improved my latest work dramatically in half the time.

Find a Reliable Editor

It’s important to find an excellent editor. Not just someone who is going to find mistakes and grammatical issues, but to give you the hard truth about your work. For A Ghost in the Attic, I used Upwork to find one. She was solid, but I could tell she tiptoed around some bigger problems with my manuscript. It wasn’t until I got it into the hands of a former student of mine that it really shone. She was brilliant when I had her in class. I asked her to have a look. It was exactly what it needed. She turned that mess into something readable. So, I paid her to edit Feasters: An Apocalyptic Tale.

A solid editor is priceless. The cost can vary, but the relationship is more important. He/She must be honest, and you should be okay with criticism. A brilliant editor is a relationship you never realized you needed until you have it.

Give Yourself Some Grace

Indie authors may not realize this, but editing isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. Be prepared to read through your manuscript three or four times. With each successful flyover of your work, you will find more and more issues whether they are grammatical or structural. It’s going to happen. Strive to be better with each edit and each book.

If you are someone who uses excessive adverbs, adjectives, or passive verbs (like this guy), don’t feel as if you must get rid of all of them. Follow the ⅓ rule. Work with your editing software and get rid of ⅓ of those issues. Next time, work on fixing another ⅓. Gradually, as you become more experienced with the writing process and the rules, it will be easier to recognize those issues. Don’t let it stop you from publishing a book because someone insists on fixing all of it. Give yourself some grace and get better each time, not all at once.

If writing is hard, then editing is a beast. Indie authors heading out on the publishing quest must face the beast head-on and not take any shortcuts. Use the surrounding resources to make it more manageable.

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