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Self-Editing: An Author’s Nightmare by Melinda Williams

Types of editing:

  • Line editing
  • Copy editing
  • Substantive editing
  • Developmental editing
  • Proofreading

Now what is the difference and how does an author determine which one they need? Let us dig a little deeper…

Line Editing: Focuses on the sentence/paragraph. Each sentence is reviewed for structure and flow. This type of edit fixes awkward sentences, wordiness, etc.

Copy Editing: Focuses on grammar, punctuation, and proper word usage.

Substantive Editing: This checks each scene thoroughly to define if the scene is moving along.

Developmental Editing: This is a very deep edit of a book. It looks for plot holes, main characters that are not captivating to the reader, checks secondary characters to see if they really need to be there, checks POV, checks pacing, etc.

Proofreading: Final step in the editing process. This is where spelling mistakes, typos, punctuation, should be found. This is a very important step because then it goes to the reader.

Now, how important is each editing? To me, as an editor, all steps are crucial for every book. Now, editing can get costly but you must make your book shine.

Here is a typical list of what an editor could charge. Others charge a lot more.

Copyediting/Proofreading- (.003 to .017per word.) This is probably the simplest form of editing. I would suggest making sure you reread your manuscript and try to find the simple mistakes yourself.

Line/Content/Heavy Editing: (.019-.039 per word) this is a very structured editing. An editor will check for most editing problems from plot holes, sentence flow, etc.

Substantive/ Developmental Editing: (.02 to .075 per word) this form of editing is very expensive but you get all forms of editing.

Now, that all forms of editing have been covered, how do you determine what editing process you need. Well with this class, I hope to help you gain the knowledge to be able to edit most of your book yourself. Of course, another set of eyes are the best policy but if you can learn something about editing then you can and will learn to edit yourself.

How to line edit:

  1. Step away from your computer and take a break.
  2. Print the manuscript and read it completely without making any edits to it.
  3. Now, go back, start reading again, and look at parts of speech. First, check nouns or verbs, and try to use more elegant nouns and never us “to be” verbs. When I say check verbs do this by using action verbs. Now continue the process all the way through your book checking pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, etc. Make sure you know the meaning of every word you use.
  4. Now check sentence structure. Are your sentences too long? If so, shorten them. Stay away from passive sentences.
  5. Tone/Voice. Make sure your voice is your own. Check for overuse of words. Avoid repeated words.
  6. As your reading, you may notice a certain scene is not in the right place. Fix it!
  7. Now, read your manuscript aloud. Yes, you heard me loud. This is when you will find more mistakes.

Now, these steps can be used for other forms of edits except developmental because it is very extensive. I will discuss in more detail developmental editing in a later lesson.

There is one book I would recommend for every writer to have. “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White. This book covers a lot and has many uses for writers. If you do not have one, by all means, get one. It will help tremendously with grammar. That is part of editing.

Editing is an author’s worst nightmare. There are so many things we must look at when we edit, but it’s our job as a writer to make sure we deliver the best book we can. Don’t think you cannot learn to do some edits, if not all, yourself. It will take discipline and a lot of sweat but in the end, you will have a great book out there.

Editing takes patience and time. Every author hates edits but if you learn just the simple edits then this will take a lot of time away from trying to edit it with each editing step. Maybe you can learn to copy or line edit but feel developmental editing is too much. If so, then you would have caught a lot of stuff that you will not have to pay an editor to do.

Basic Editing Tips

All authors have a challenge when it comes to self-editing. We are expected to look at our work and reword our sentences that we think are great.

I would suggest for every writer, especially new ones, but I would suggest going through these simple editing tips before you submit it to an editor.

  1. Put your book to sleep: Okay you have typed your last word. Now put that book aside for a while. Maybe a week. Then go back and look at your written words. With fresh eyes, you will notice some editing issues.
  2. I would suggest printing the entire book and read it. Some prefer to have it read aloud. Whichever one works for you, then that is what you do. You will find other mistakes by doing this.
  3. Watch your words. Make sure you are using the correct form.

For example: good/well, its/it’s/, who/whom, etc.

  1. Watch those frequently used words. I call them ‘my cane’ words because they are used to help convey a message but they are not really needed. It’s the words we use repeatedly and don’t even realize it.
  2. Do not use double spaces after each sentence. Only one. Check this!
  3. Check grammar and punctuation.
  4. Have in your possession The Chicago Manuel of Style.
  5. Make sure your book is formatted correctly.
  6. Avoid over editing. This is common so watch out for it.
  7. Keep Writing!

Checklist for self-editing

Check sentence structures. Look for run-on sentences, fragments, comma splices. Check all modifiers. Remove unnecessary words that could clutter your sentences.

Grammar and Usage: Make sure all verbs and subjects agree. Check for usage of semicolons, commas, etc. Check spelling.

Style of your voice: Make sure all those “to be” verbs are eliminated. Avoid using passive voice.

Following these simple steps is the basic ways to edit your manuscript. I would have never thought to print my book off and read it would reveal to me anything but it did. I found mistakes I would have never of found.

Editing your own book can lead to a satisfaction that only a writer can understand. Editing takes time but in the end, the book is great. Proofreading is very important and this is the final step in catching anything that is wrong.

There is nothing like getting your book out there for sale and then readers come back and say this book needs an editor. By following the above steps your book is on its way to becoming a book that sparkles in the hands of a reader.

You must see your manuscript as an editor would see it. The mechanics you must have to learn to edit is POV, dialogue, learn how to write the narrative and action scenes. Do not try to write your book and edit it at the same time. There are several materials that I will not get to cover but I am going to make sure the most important things are covered.

[box] BIO:

Melinda WilliamsMelinda lives in the majestic mountains of Arizona. She is a published author of romance, mystery, and paranormal. She also writes articles for Southern Writers Magazine, Native Hoop Magazine, and a former editor for CM Wright Author Services, owner of Red Rock Author Services. When she isn’t creating a suspense story with captivating characters, she can be found reading, writing articles for a magazine, or spending time with her husband Vernon and her kids, Shaelee and Erik.

As a young child, she loved reading and writing. To her own surprise, she started writing and creating her very own world, a place where she could go and lose herself with just a pen and paper.

​She grew up with the fascination of the American Indian. Her love for them grew rapidly as she read about them from my history book. She wanted to show, in her writings, of the proud people that the American Indians truly are. They show honor and respect for all living things. If she can capture just a small portion of that in her writings then that would be an added bonus for her.


RJ Garside is the Membership & Workshop Coordinator at SavvyAuthors. She’s the online smile that you get on Monday mornings with access details ...
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