How to Edit Your Book: Tips from Bestselling Authors
Imagine this, you’re sitting in your favorite writing space, frantically scribbling on the page until you finally see it, the words you’ve been waiting to see you since you began writing: “The End.” Reaching the end of a manuscript can be a thrilling, cathartic experience, but for many, it invokes new anxieties. In this article we’ll be addressing these concerns. We’ll discuss our best tips on how to edit your book after completing your manuscript’s first draft, and how to alleviate the stressors that accompany the editing experience. Happy reading (and happy editing), Scribblers!
Step #1) Set the manuscript aside for an extended period of time.
So you can edit your book with fresh eyes, we recommend putting the manuscript away for a few weeks. In our opinion, the longer you wait, the better (as long as you’re not working against a deadline). Whether it be closing the tab on your Scrivener dashboard or literally locking away a printed manuscript in a drawer, stepping away from your book will allow you to get some well-deserved rest and work on other projects.
Step #2) Before you begin editing, print the manuscript and complete a quick read through.
There’s nothing more satisfying than the feeling of warm paper straight from the printer, right? To be honest, that’s half the reason why this tip is so satisfying. The other half, of course, is that by printing out the entire manuscript and taking notes in the margins, we’re able to document the issues in our manuscript that stand out to us the most. After reading through the story, we recommend coming up with a “plan of attack” on how best to fix the issues that arise, starting with large scale moments from the first pass (such as flat characters, lack of worldbuilding, flaws in a magic system, major plot holes, etc.) and eventually getting to smaller scale issues from the sequential passes.
Step #3) Focus on one goal at a time.
When editing, it’s important to take things one step at a time. While you may be tempted to speed through this part of the process, it’s vital to approach your manuscript with delicacy and precision in order to become completely engrossed in your manuscript. Despite how easy some writers make editing seem, editing is a multi-day (or week or month!) affair that requires many drafts. We suggest tackling one editing goal at a time. For example, we recommend focusing one day on spelling errors, another on syntax, another on plot holes, etc. Keeping your editing process focused and meticulous will work wonders for your manuscript (and state of mind!).
Step #4) Read your manuscript aloud.
You read that right. Read your entire manuscript aloud to yourself to help you catch those pesky syntactical errors. By reading your writing out loud, you will be able to easily identify the sentences that seem clunky, too long, or just plain extra. This is one of our best tips for editing your book, but it’s easily one of the toughest. Usually the first chapter goes well, but after a couple more chapters, the task becomes daunting. To increase this strategy’s effectiveness, we recommend splitting your manuscript into sections and tackling it over a week or two’s time. Just remember to keep a water bottle handy as you embark on this endeavor.
Step #5) Find beta readers.
Beta readers will be your best friends during this process, we promise. If you’re unfamiliar with the the term, beta readers are people who provide feedback based on the reader’s point of view. Know anyone who has a casual interest in reading? Toss them your manuscript, and receive their feedback. Remember: the beta reader’s responsibility is not to provide feedback about the writing craft itself; rather, their main purpose is to approach your manuscript with an unbiased, holistic approach. Not sure where to start on your hunt for a beta reader? We have an entire community of writers in our Scribbler’s Chat Facebook Group.
We hope these tips on how to edit your book help you during the daunting process that is the editing a manuscript. If you ever need any assistance, holler at us via our Scribbler Editorial site, where we offer critiques of query letters, chapters, and more! We’re wishing you all the luck in the world on your writing/editing journey, Scribbler!