No Credit Edit: Ideas for Self Editing

No Credit EditDear JC,

I am a beginning writer that is trying to do a final edit on my novel, and I have a question and would like honest advice. What is the most efficient and effective way of doing a final edit before I publish it? I don’t have the money to hire a professional editor, so I’m looking for something I can do on my own.

Sincerely,

No Crediting Editing

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Dear No Crediting,

Well, honestly, I’d say the most “efficient and effective way” is to hire a professional editor. However, since that isn’t an option, there are a lot of other ideas to take your manuscript to the next level.

For starters, when I complete a first draft (or 30th for that matter), I put the manuscript away, completely out of sight. I’ll start my next book, read a new book or just take some time off. In a month or so, I’ll pull the manuscript out of the drawer, dust it off and read it again with fresh eyes. You’d be surprised at what I find.

There’s several ways you can take this a step further. For example, a lot of authors suggest reading your manuscript out loud. You’ll “hear” the novel differently than just silently reading it to yourself, and you’ll stumble over awkward sentences and stilted dialog.

Another friend of mine suggests printing the manuscript in a completely different font. If you typed it using Times New Roman, then print in Comic Sans or Arial. The difference will allow your eyes to pick-out snow blind errors — or all those pesky typos that we don’t see because we’ve gotten so familiar with our own work.

Once I’ve reread my novel with fresh eyes, I’ll comb through it again concentrating on the words and individual sentences. I call this the “scrub.” I look for repetitive words, clichés and telling/lazy writing. I have a friend who prints out a hard copy and edits from the last page to the first. That way, she doesn’t get caught up in the story and instead focuses on the phrasing.

Once that’s done, I like to have three or four “beta readers” read it. If they find a continuity error or something that seems out of character or doesn’t make sense, they’ll tell me. A man in my critique group actually uses “beta listeners.” He invites a few people to his house and reads his novel out loud to them over the course of a few nights. He likes getting their perception of the story and allows them to ask questions and provide feedback.

Hope that helps & good luck,

JC

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