By Shelley Widhalm
Once you’re ready to self-publish, rushing the editing process may lose readers and hurt author branding.
The book likely needs one more step, or your credibility might be called into question if it’s published too soon. To do that step takes time and several rounds solely and with group input from critique partners/groups and beta readers. At the very least, editing should be done at the developmental, copy editing and proofreading levels.
Developmental editing looks at the structure of your novel from the story arc to the characters, setting, dialog, theme, conflict, tension and pacing. It also looks at consistency in all the story elements of character, setting, plot and dialog.
Copy editing gives a close look at every line of text to check for story, style, transitions and repeats, as well as grammar, spelling, punctuation, syntax and other mechanics of style.
Proofreading gives a final pass to catch the errors not caught in the first two rounds, since it’s impossible to see every single mistake in a solitary read. This requires a careful, slow review of each paragraph.
Through the editing process, there are several things to think about, which are compiled in a simple, straightforward cheat sheet.
Editing Cheat Sheet
- Cut unnecessary words and sentences that do not move the story along or confuse what you’re trying to say.
- Vary the sentence structures, so that not every sentence reads subject-verb-object. Use varied sentence lengths and structures and mix in short and long paragraphs.
- Look for needless repetitions, awkward transitions and poor word choice. Avoid repeating words, facts and details.
- Opt for the active voice over the passive voice. For example, say, “The child picked the tulips,” instead of “The tulips were picked by the child.
- Keep verb tenses the same, especially within a sentence.
- Replace adjectives and adverbs with nouns and verbs.
- Use the active voice whenever you can.
- Get rid of clichés, unless used for a specific purpose, because they demonstrate a lack of creativity.
Editing in Passes
Editing is best done through a few passes, since not every error can be caught in the first go-around with several things to pay attention to all at once. Editors are trained to find those flaws and oversights and to improve your writing and storytelling, so that your novel will have great structure and flow. That way readers won’t put it down out of frustration at too many errors or a story that doesn’t make sense or matter to them.