Written by: Marla Madison
You’ve written “The End” either on the page or in your mind. Are you feeling a euphoric sense of relief and accomplishment? Or a sinking feeling of despair because the worst is yet to come—the dreaded edits! If the second describes your feelings about reaching the last page, then you have a lot of company, myself included.
I’m having people over to my house tomorrow night to play bridge. No need to worry about things they’d never see, right? It occurred to me that the tasks of editing my novel and cleaning my house have a lot in common, a rather discouraging realization since I hate cleaning.
Never being one to avoid doing things the easy way, I plotted just what had to be done. I decided the best way to move forward with either task was to have a plan. Just as I wouldn’t vacuum a room before I dust, I’d have to tackle editing in an organized manner in order to save myself from endless do-overs.
Here is what I came up with:
• The absolute first thing. Have the right tools at your fingertips: Dictionary, thesaurus, red pen, notebook, and any edit notes you made while writing your book.
• Get rid of the clutter! Go through your manuscript and note any glaring problems. Fix spelling, grammar, typos, and conflicting details or (my personal downfall) consistency in character’s names, which also includes spelling their names the same way every time they’re mentioned. During this read through, keep lists of anything in your story line that needs work. If you haven’t already done so, make detailed character lists.
• Decide what has to be done – Separate the lists you’ve made into categories. Now read through your book, preferably out loud, for flow, plot, interest, etc. Are the things you noted necessary changes?
• Clean house – Make critical revisions based on your notes and your read through. Get rid of unnecessary wordage even if it’s painful.
• Save the heavy cleaning for after the party - Only when you’re satisfied that your work flows, and grammar, spelling, and typos are corrected, is your manuscript ready to send to your professional editor and beta readers. If you’ve done your housekeeping well, your final revisions and clean-up will be as smooth as a bowl of chocolate ice cream.
This list is a simplistic approach, designed to help you get started on what feels like a monumental task. If you need a more detailed advisory, or if this is your first book, I’d recommend picking up a book on editing. One I’ve used is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni Browne and David King.
It’s vital to invest in a professional editor and proofreader if at all possible. If it isn’t, make sure you have a list of beta readers who will give you detailed, constructive feedback. I’d also advise joining a critique group of experienced authors and also finding someone to read your book out loud to you. Or record your own read through and play it back.
You’ve put a lot of precious time and effort into your book—don’t let it down by publishing a flawed product. Remember, the competition is fierce and readers demanding.
What's your take? Will you self-edit or hire an editor?
About the Author:
Marla Madison is a retired Federal Mediator, now working as an Arbitrator for the state of Iowa and the Federal Mediation Service. She's Not There is her debut suspense novel, and Relative Malice, her second. Marla is working on a third suspense story, that while not a sequel to She's Not There, does have some of the same characters.
Marla lives on Prairie Lake in Northwestern Wisconsin with her significant other, Terry, a beloved shelter-dog, Skygge, and Poncho, an opinionated feline from the same shelter.
Also an avid reader of suspense, some of her favorite authors are Tana French, Lisa Gardner, Jeffrey Deaver, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson, Tess Gerritson, and Tami Hoag.
When not reading or writing, Marla enjoys playing duplicate bridge, golfing, and going on long walks with her dog.