Post: Editing Your Manuscript Through A Critical Lens

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No matter how much time and effort you put into creating a great first draft, it will still be far from perfect. This is where edits come in. Editing is an essential part of the book writing process, and it should begin long before you ever decide to start submitting to agents or publishing companies.

The goal is to get your manuscript as polished as possible before it ever lands in front of someone in the publishing world. One or two errors in a manuscript might be easy enough to overlook—professional editors are there for a reason—but pages riddled with too many commas, inconsistent points of view and spelling mistakes will not get you very far. Here’s how to critically review your own work before moving forward with the publishing process.

Who is your story for?

While you are the author, ultimately the book is for your readers. Keep that in mind when conducting your edits. If your book is not providing any type of value to the readers or is too difficult for them to traverse through, then it’s time to rethink things.

If you used a superfluous word just to make your writing sound advanced or unique but had to look up the definition just to use it, chances are you might want to cut it.

Editing in three steps

Keeping in mind that the book is for the readers, it’s time to get started. Many writers find that a three-step approach is one of the most effective ways to edit. These steps are the:

  • Make it right edits
  • Line-by-line edits
  • Read aloud edits

These steps can be broken down into actionable processes that will help you get your book in tip top shape.

Make it right

This step is where you will look at the big picture of your book and see if anything is out of place. Did you make sure to include all your content? Is everything in the correct order? Most importantly, does the current structure make sense?

If not, now is the time to restructure your order of events, add or delete scenes and create a sense of continuity.

Line-by-line

Line-by-line edits can be understandably tedious. However, the effort you put into this process now will pay off in the future. As you go through your book line by line, ask yourself if your writing is clear, simple, short and direct as possible. If not, you’ve got some work to do.

Read aloud

Our brains have a fun way of glossing over misspelled, double typed or omitted words as we read. So how do you get around this problem when you’re trying to edit? Read it aloud! You can make this as fun or entertaining as you like, even trying on different voices for your various characters.

You don’t have to be a professional audiobook narrator to make this process work though. If you are unable to read aloud to yourself or need to save your voice for other reasons, consider using a software that reads aloud for you.

Editing is an important skill with which all writers should be at least somewhat comfortable. Editors exist for a reason though, so if after the first round of edits you are still not satisfied, it doesn’t hurt to explore your options for help.