Editing a fiction manuscript is hard work.

If you’re a writer of any kind, not just fiction, you need to know that. From what I’ve seen, most writers who don’t do “professional” quality work, fail in the area of editing. For a published work, there’s no excuse for typos, improper punctuation and formatting, etc. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure there will be some things in my upcoming novel that I’ve missed. Oh well, live and learn.

how to edit a novelI thought I’d take a few minutes to give you the low-down on how to edit a novel, or at least how I’m going about the editing process for my book.

#1 – Beta Readers

Everyone who agreed to take on the “beta reader” role for my novel, agreed to give me feedback about typos, punctuation, word usage, and things that simply didn’t make sense. Some of them did a great job at this. Others didn’t even try. But that’s OK. Everyone contributed valuable insights on one level or another. I had a few readers that you might consider to be “grammar nazis” – but I found myself being EXTREMELY thankful for those people. They had an eye that caught things I missed multiple times. I found myself being so grateful that I’d be able to avoid such obvious mistakes, all because of those beta readers.

#2 – My first round of corrections

After getting back the comments from my readers, I went through the electronic version of my novel, and made the corrections that were brought to my attention. It was a pretty time-intensive, laborious process, but I made it through.

#3 – Some “hand-picked” editors

You know these kind of people… folks who are able to give constructive criticism with an eye toward perfection. These are the “type” of people from my circle of friend and acquaintances, that I asked to help me go through a second round of edits. My two teenage daughters, and my teenage son were in this group, as well as some others. This was like a fine-toothed comb, helping me weed out even more mistakes.

#4 – My personal editing, with a hard-copy printout of the manuscript

To me, it was vital to get a paper copy of the manuscript in my hand. I was able to pay closer attention and see more details that way. It’s amazing how many punctuation, word usage, and spelling errors STILL existed in my manuscript, even after two rounds of editing had already been done. I used a colored pen (green was my choice) to mark things needing adjustment or change. As I’m writing this post, I’m in the middle of this 4th step, and it’s tough. It requires attention to detail and a high degree of perseverance. And, I have to fight the urge to become lazy with it. You know… you’ve been working through the pages word by word for hours, and just want to quit, or skip it altogether. But, I can’t let myself do that, because I want my finished product to be of the highest quality possible.

#5 – A final, read-through

Once I’m finished with all the edits I’ve discovered in step #4, I’ll be printing out another copy to read through on my own. I want to do this as much in “one sitting” as possible, so I get a good feel for the flow and pacing of the story. I’ll mark things that I still feel need to be changed, change them, and then be done with it. I know I will have to make that conscious decision, because I could potentially continue making changes for eons if I don’t set a deadline.

What? No professional editor?

You’ve no doubt noticed that I’ve mentioned that I wanted to have my final manuscript as professional as possible… yet, I’ve not listed hiring an professional editor in any of my steps. Why would I do that?

One reason: Cash (or lack of it).

I’m doing this the self-publishing route, so I’m having to cut as many corners as I legitimately can. I know a professional edit is important, but it’s one of the things I haven’t been able to do, financially. I’m hoping that I make enough on this novel that I can afford to do professional edits on future books in the series. And… if YOU are a professional editor, or one who’s just getting started, I’d love to talk with you about doing a “trade” deal. Maybe I could give you a glowing testimonial to add to your professional portfolio, and you could provide some editing services in return? Maybe? What do you think?