I’m going to give you four or five steps to help outine how to edit your own work. For those of you who’ve been in self-publishing for some time, none of this will be new to you, but if you’re just starting out, this guide may help you get off the ground. I am a writer and editor, and this is a system I use if I need to work on my own stuff. If you’re on a budget and need to cut corners, I’m going to give you four or five steps to help outine how to edit your own work.
I use Scrivener as a word processor but I edit in Word. I hate Word for formatting, but for correction, it’s pretty strong. I have no experience with the native Mac programs, but I assume the function of them is much the same.
All you need to get started is a free Grammarly account. The entire process will cost you nothing, only your time. The following guide will assume you’ve done at least one read on your text before proceeding. As most of you know, it’s normal to make your way through five-plus drafts before a text is ready. Some people do twelve. You know what it needs, so adjust accordingly.
So, let’s get started.
How to Edit Your Own Work, the Steps:
- Your manuscript finished, you can now do two passes for errors in grammar and spelling. No need to wait, but it’s good to do so. First, do a pass with Grammarly, correcting everything you see fit, but please use caution. Grammarly is good for heavy adverbial use, punctuation and redundant phrases. It sometimes errs with articles. Don’t let it make editorial decisions at sentence level for you. Once this is done, run over the manuscript again with Word ‘Spelling and Grammar’. Both programs pick up different errors, so don’t skip the Word checks. You also need to be careful with Word, particularly with dialogue attribution. But it will nab most double words for you.
- Your first (post-check) read. I do this on my laptop, in Word. Now, if you’re pumping out weekly serial fiction on KDP with short texts of five to ten thousand words, you can do this a day or two after you finish writing. But if you’re working on a novel, I recommend waiting at least three weeks after you last worked on it before this read. Work your way through the text in no more than one-hour segments until finished. You need regular breaks, or you start missing stuff.
- The second read. Same as before, leave time between reads. Three weeks for longer fiction. For this read, I have made all of my corrections back into Scrivener and have generated an epub or mobi. I read it on my tablet. The read is completely different and you will notice a lot more, even at sentence level. Make any changes in your original document (in Scrivener or other).
- If you’re writing short fiction, at this stage you’re probably ready. But you can follow this step if in doubt. If you’re working on a novel, you need to do this for sure. Produce another Word file and run it through Spelling and Grammar once more. You’d be surprised how many errors you make while correcting, particularly with spacing and erroneously added words.
- As an extra step to wrap up, I recommend you make use of ‘Find and Replace’ (CTRL+H) in Word. Here are just some of the things you want to look out for:
- double spaces
- double words (eg: ‘the the’, ‘a a’, ‘of of’, ‘his his’, etc)
- consistency in spelling (eg: British or American)
- If you’re only producing an ebook, you can stop here. For paperback, there’s one more step. Produce your PDF and book cover and upload it to KDP. Then order your proof copy. Read it. You will find yet more errors. You may decide to make structural changes. The paperback read is also completely different. Any changes you make, do so in your original document. Then produce new epubs and PDFs.
If you’re working on a five thousand word short, this’ll produce a pretty clean document. If your novel is a 120,000 fantasy, this system will not, obviously, fill any plot holes or do anything for you developmentally. But it will tidy up your document a hell of a lot. It’s not foolproof, but it’ll catch 99 per cent for you.
Please note: If you routinely do eight edits on your text, I’m not suggesting you cut it to two. Do what you always do. But slip this procedure into your process. It works.
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