Writers, like all artists, are a creative bunch.
There are some that are meticulous about structure and form. There are some that fly by the seat of their pants on the winds of inspiration. Both make good writers. Editing, proper and professional editing, make great writers.
You may be thinking you’ve heard this before. You know you have to edit. You know not to rush to publish. You’ve read enough poorly or unedited books by now to know the value of editing. But I’m here to tell you that’s just the tip of the publishing iceberg. You can have the most fantastic, most original, next Pulitzer Prize winning novel sitting right now on your hard drive, but unless it’s edited, and edited properly, no one will ever know it.
Before I go into details about my editing process, which grows and changes with each book I write, I’d like to share some of the benefits of the editing process that you may not be aware of.
- Working with a professional editor makes you a better writer. (Not all editors are the same or have the same qualifications. Make sure to do your research, ask for a sample edit, and read other books edited by the person you are thinking of hiring.)
- Editors will not only point out specific errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation, but will also tell you which ones you seem to repeat over and over again, thereby curing you of those bad habits.
- Your editor will advise if your language needs varying or is too repetitive.
- Weak plot points or filler chapters in a soggy center—your editor will find and point those out as well.
- Need examples of show don’t tell or how to use body language to express emotions? Your editor can and will give you many.
- Have a tendency to use passive words instead of active words? Guess who will show you how to convert those lazy sentences into engaging prose.
- Editors who have your best interests at heart will push you to new heights. The best editors will push you past your comfort zones and give you the confidence you need to make it to the next level.
- Editing gives you time between writing and publishing to let your eyes and mind adjust. Everyone is in such a rush to publish. When we write, we are so excited to finally type “The End” that we don’t realize in that moment, there’s still a ton of work to be done.
- Lack of tension in your novel that is impossible to see today, will be glaringly obvious a few weeks from now. Breaks are needed between writing and editing in order to avoid the holes in the story road. Without them, you’ll fall right in.
- You’ve probably learned a lot since finishing your first draft, which is sometimes evidenced by a weak beginning, but stronger finish. A few months from now, your writing could be leaps and bounds from where it was. Give yourself the opportunity to put out the best book when you publish, incorporating everything you’ve learned recently into your edits.
I’m in the middle of final edits on my next novel, Choosing to Dream. I don’t remember when I finished the first draft. I think it was at the beginning of the year. In between the first draft and final draft I took time to write Sea Breeze, a romantic standalone novella that released May 27th. Doing that gave me the opportunity to edit and publish another work while taking a break from my novel to let it rest. Also gave me the added benefit of going through another edit to add to my experience before tackling this one. My process below has evolved from my experience, and I’m sure will continue to evolve as I continue to grow.
- Final Draft Completed- Set aside for a month.
- First Self Edit Pass- Use a comprehensive list of all my notes from previously edited works to cut out all my crutch words, frequently used phrases, spell check, etc.
- Beta Readers- Three or four betas to read and provide comments on plot, flow, character development, and storyline. Also creates another month of book rest.
- Incorporate Suggested and Accepted Comments- Read through of story from beginning to end, incorporating suggestions I agree with from beta readers.
- Send to Editor- It’s now in your editor’s hands. Take another month-long break. Read. Work on another project.
- Review Editor’s comments- When I first receive back my work, I review all the comments in her editing letter and the actual comment bubbles in the doc first before I start making any changes. That gives me an idea of exactly where I need to focus. I also ask questions and get clarification on comments if I’m not sure how to proceed.
- Make Overall Edits- I go through my word doc and accept the basic typo and grammar corrections.
- Chapter by Chapter Line Edits- This is where I go deeper. Are there ways I can strengthen this chapter, this scene? My editor shows me where I have a good chapter, but adding a bit more tension or feeling will make it great. She also shows me where scenes are unnecessary and can be completely cut out and not change a thing.
- Send Back to Editor for Second Pass- Your WIP should be almost ready at this point, but you want your editor to review again, to make sure your edits didn’t foul up the original work. Or at least, I do.
- Review Second Pass Edits- Review and approve any final edits
- Send to Proofreader- Even the most skilled eyes can miss errors. Get it proofed and proof read it yourself. The best way, which takes longer, is to read out loud. Every line, out loud.
- Send out ARCs-Send out to your trusted readers first, asking them to notify you if they find any typos in the document. Then send out to the rest of your ARC readers.
There you have it.
There’s still formatting to be done, marketing to prepare, pre-orders to set up and blogs and reviewers to submit to, but the above should get you where you need to be to either self-publish or submit to a big publisher. For submitting to a big publisher, you can probably skip the ARC process, but that would be it. Many of you will disagree and say that none of the above is necessary if submitting to a publisher. You’re wrong.
Why in the name of all that is holy would you not want the absolute best version of your book to be the one you submit?
Yes, they have editors on staff. Yes, if you are lucky enough to be accepted, you will still need to go through their editing process. But you need to be accepted first.
I love self-publishing, but if I ever do decide to submit to one of the big five, you can be damned sure it will be the very best version of that book I can possibly provide.
Jennifer Senhaji was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and has a husband and two children. Music is her addiction. She can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of her lungs to whatever is playing. She works full time, and she splits her spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. She’s a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into her head—her kids are the only ones that really get it. She’s an only child, and so of course she married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, she speaks Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. She loves to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of her life and she now loves writing. She’s a klutz, and in her own mind, she’s hilarious.Find her at www.jennifersenhajiauthor.com. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/jsenhaji13. Find her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/jsenhaji13 Her Blog: http://jennifersenhaji.blogspot.comGoodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/jennifersenhaji Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/JsenhajiAmazon https://www.amazon.com/author/jennifersenhajiWordPress https://jsenhaji13.wordpress.com/