How To Edit A Manuscript On Your Own

So editing is a very annoying process at times. It can be extremely frustrating. I am finishing the last bit of editing for the sequel to my novel and I’d like to share with you how I am enduring the pain.

I am happy to say that after writing the first novel, the sequel was a more straight-forward process; the takeaway there: editing gets easier over time. For the first book, I gave the book to my brother and said, “Read this, and correct my mistakes.” That was because I had grown sick of looking at the same stuff over and over again. He gave me the book back with corrections, and many of them I made immediately, but I actually made new mistakes in correcting my old ones (I call it Microsoft Word haze, a foggy state one falls into after doing too many repetitive motions at the screen). It wasn’t until a colleague of mine told me about two things, (A), that there were POD services available and I didn’t have to go traditional anymore (this was in early 2011), and (B), that I needed to give “the attention of poetry to my prose.” Needless to say, I went on to rewrite (mind you this is the revision step, not the editing) a lot of stuff in the book. One of the initial small-press publishers that I submitted to never got past the second chapter, and their marks let me know why: I had written far too much of the story in the passive voice. At the time, I wasn’t too aware of how to detect and restructure prose written in the passive voice. At times I tried to find passive voice in the books that inspired me, The Lord of the Rings, and successfully did find it. This somehow didn’t make me feel that it was OK though, I knew I had to restructure to become competitive and make a story that was fast and flowed. So anyway, despite this rambling, what is the streamlined process I have used for editing the sequel to Darkin 1? I, like many of you, cannot afford to shell out money for an editor yet, and I am still a bit wary of what a bad, or even misguided editor could do to the overall feel and vision of my work. So this is my process after going through the first book quite unsure how to edit smoothly and effectively:

1. Write the book, let it sit. This is a steaming, unpolished, pile-o-crap in my opinion, but its core is fantastic. I have to shape it. I wrote Darkin: The Prophecy of the Key about 3 years ago.

2. Rewrite the book. This was a summer-long process for me, and I put it off for so long because I never knew about POD services. Now that I am self-pubbing, I knew I had to finally get to work on the manuscript. So I reread and rewrote it. Changed it so that it was active, and tried to hack and cut as much junk from the word count as I could. I got it from around 130,000 words to around 125,000 words.

3. Edit the book. here’s the smooth, inspiring piece of brilliance about my new editing technique: I make it into an e-book and download it onto my iPhone. Yes, again: I make it into an .epub file and download it onto my iPhone. I do this through Once its there, I begin to read the book, pretending as if I am a customer who had bought it. What do I do? I highlight anything that is awkward, needs to be cut, or that simply is a typo. I take my time doing this. I can do it whenever I want (as I walk my dog, as I am stuck to my couch, waiting in the doctor’s office, you name it…) The fact that I can edit on the go, whenever I have a few moments of attention, had made the final process a lot less daunting, and a lot more enjoyable. I still hate it though. The worst part, which I am in now after 2 months of editing (if I was writing full-time, I could probably get this all done faster, but I work full-time), is adding the corrections to the Word document. I am chunking them, bit by bit, and all-told, the process will take about a week.

Once I am done the editing, I will be sooooo happy. You see, this last part causes a numbness in my soul, and so it must be done in small pieces. I have times of wanting to say screw it, these changes are so nit-picky that I can forego them, but that is a dangerous trap. They are the product of my intuition as I read it, remember, in the mindset of an actual customer.

When all’s said and done, I will have a neat process for self-editing, three steps long, that I have refined and like, which I will use for all my future novels I believe. Some things to take into account, which I have going for me which you might not as indie authors: I am a Rutgers University educated English grad, now halfway through graduate school. I also teach English, and have done so at the high school level for nearly the last 4 years. These two things keep me immersed in literature, and just learning more about the English language in all its areas. This doesn’t mean you can’t follow my revision, editing process if you want to: you may just need to reaffirm your identity as a learner, and be willing to constantly google-check things (as I do) whenever you have the slightest doubt (do you have your lie, lay, lain down?). Until next time.

2 Thoughts on “How To Edit A Manuscript On Your Own

  1. I would also recommend using this book, “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.” It’s been recommended to me by many people, and I found it to be an invaluable tool for editing my first drafts. But these methods should never replace a professional editor. Self-editing only cleans up your work. An actual editor will tidy it up more. I would highly suggest hiring an editor (and a proofreader), if possible. If you shop around, you will find many freelance editors out there who do a great job at a budget price.

  2. josephturkot on November 21, 2012 at 2:51 am said:

    Thanks R.M. Again, I have yet hire an editor. I do have a B.A. in English, and I am also a high school English teacher. I am also halfway through grad school for English. I know, I know: those things don’t make me a professional editor. But still, I can’t bring myself to spend money on that aspect of the self-pubbing process yet. One day…

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