Richard Lane Church, Author

Use Your Writing Talent to Make Money

Copywriting * Content Writing * Fiction

Of course, you must write before editing your self-published novel. I always have Grammarly turned on because I am such a sloppy typist. And I admit that I miss the occasional comma and misspell words at times. So, the first part of my editing style is to write several pages, then go back and look at the squiggly red lines. If you find yourself repeating mistakes, learn what the problem is so that your prose is cleaner, to begin with.

There are four types of editing:

  • Developmental Editing
  • Line Editing
  • Copy Editing
  • Proof-Reading

Two comments I want to make before describing each of these.

Firstly, “Write first, edit second” is my cardinal rule. Never block your creative process, especially on the first draft by doing mechanical things. It may feel good, but it takes away from your writing time. Finish at least a page, a chapter, or a writing session.; and then edit it roughly if you want. Hemmingway wrote and then edited his work each day. Steinbeck wrote the first draft of The Grapes of Wrath in a matter of weeks before editing anything.

A personal hack: If I can’t think of the right word, I typically write a string of letters, ggggg, as a holding place. Any writing app will catch it as misspelled and will underline it. And it keeps me from getting bogged down or distracted,

Fine books depicting several of the best written works since Roman times. Editing Your Self-Published Novel will help you create a quality work to be read by many.
Reading classic and well-written modern literature enhances one’s sense of story when writing.

Secondly, especially in the last stages of drafts, I read aloud. You will catch awkward sentences and continuity problems easier this way. It is too easy to let your eyes skim over prose and believe what is on the page are the same as the words in your mind. Now and then, you may be wrong. Even after I get everything back from a professional editor, I do this. And I caught a few things that need correcting or could be better said.

Developmental Editing Your Self-Published Novel

This editing takes in the whole landscape of your novel. You obviously can use it after writing it, but I believe it so basic that it is helpful to use from the beginning. Developmental editing looks at the most basic elements of your novel: its structure and plot, tense and point of view (POV) it’s predominately written in, your character’s motivations and voices, and your narrative style.

Are you writing in the past tense? Are you expressing your character in the first or third person? Even I you are writing from the seat of your pants do you have a beginning, middle, and ending scene in mind? A main character quest that gets resolved in the end? Also, consider the stakes if your main character does not succeed, and ways of raising them in the middle and the end.

An easy error is changing from one character’s thoughts (POV) to another. This is called head-hopping. It confuses the reader and possibly the author. If want to include more than one point of view, my opinion is to put them into different chapters where one main character is dominant. In another chapter, another may be dominant. When they are together, you must stick to one or the other, at least for that scene or chapter.

Lastly, how do you want to structure your novel? (Personally, I learned a ton about structure and plot from Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody.)

Some developmental editors may even touch on the commercial viability of the novel.

If you use beta readers, some of their ideas may need to be incorporated at this stage. One comment I got from three readers was that the ending chapter was too abrupt. The book needed several more instances of foreshadowing and a transitional chapter before the end.

Line Editing

I do line editing myself before sending it to a professional editor. Again, I read it aloud. Look for awkward sentences. If people behave in out-of-characters ways. The variations in sentence lengths, and timing (good things). Now is the time to rewrite, strengthen each sentence, cut out irrelevant passages, and re-check the order of events.

Now is the time for finding and correcting contradictions!

When line editing, consider the words and cadence of each character. Ask yourself if it sounds authentic to that character. Think of the way uneducated Huckleberry Finn spoke as opposed to Tom Sawyer. Or the impoverished, simple “Okies” in The Grapes of Wrath in relation to the powerful California growers who wanted to take advantage of them. I love the mini-series Angels in America because the playwright, Tony Kushner, gave each character a unique and appropriate voice.

The basic and very important function of “Show don’t tell” is applied during the line edit. “Actions speak louder than words” is often heard when a politician, celebrity, or anyone appears hypocritical. Readers learn more by seeing what a character does than what you say about him or her.

Clarity is the greatest virtue in journalism (Accuracy and Brevity are two more). Unless it’s in the purposely awkward speech of a hard-to-understand character, write clean prose. Avoid cliches. Any metaphors used should be easily understood. Although “he said” and “she said” can be tiresome in a long dialog, make sure your reader knows who is speaking. (one device for this is to include actions, such as

She glared at Harry. “Absolutely Not!”
He flinched. “But Mom’s not around anymore.”
“We’re keeping it anyway,” she stammered, then turned and stomped away.

Copy Editing Your Self-Published Novel

During the copy editing stage of editing your self-published novel, you need to check that your chapters are in the correct order. I write using Scrivener, which makes this easy. Make sure your timeline is correct. Check your spelling, punctuation, syntax, grammar, and character names are correct and consistent. In dialog sections, check again that each speaker is easy to identify. This gets more difficult when conversations include several people.

Your document should use standard formatting.

Editing Your Self-Published Novel Final Stage: Proofreading

Historically, printers would make proof pages of an author’s work, and it would be scrutinized for errors. Now and then I see errors in a book that may be several years old before I read it. I’ve also seen, a letter in a different size or style of font from the rest of the text. These are the things that proofreading is supposed to catch before the printed work goes public.

Many of the formatting problems that old-time printers encountered have nearly disappeared in the era of word processors, ebooks, and digital printing. Pages are uniform and consecutively numbered. But there are many things that need to be checked for accuracy and consistency: list (even the bullet points), diagrams, alphabetization of bibliographies, source pages, etc. Instead of listing them, professional proofreader Louise Harnby offers a free proofreading checklist here. I downloaded and viewed the guideline: it looks very complete and helpful.

Read Louise Harnby’s (a professional fiction editor and proofreader), blog here on this subject.

Read my post on How to Avoid Three Common Publishing Mistakes.

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