Editing. Just the word alone is enough to make most writers shiver. It conjures up all sorts of terrifying images of red ink, scratched out lines, crumpled up pages, and raised eyebrows. As writers, it’s all fine and good editing someone else’s work until it comes time to ours. Then all bets are off.
I’m not going to pretend that editing is an easy process. For me, it’s a thousand times more daunting to edit my book than it is to write it. It’s a huge undertaking, so you have to develop approaches to ease the work-load. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly easy to develop bad habits along with the good. Now is the time to settle into some good habits that you can carry with you in any writing endeavor. To help in the wide world of edition your book, here are my top three strategies for editing.
1. Read your work aloud.
If you read my blog post on book exile and have followed that tidbit of advice, you’re coming back to a book that you haven’t looked at for a while. You aren’t anticipating every move of the book as you read through it and that’s a very good thing. The whole point of this is to keep your brain reading what’s actually on the page instead of filling in the blanks with what you intended.
To take this a step further, reading your work aloud is a fantastic way to not only make sure you’re reading what’s actually on the page but to check the pacing and rhythm of your book as well. I started doing this in middle school, but unwillingly. My mother, who homeschooled me and my sisters, would often require me to go into another room and read my essay aloud to myself before I was allowed to present it to her as a finished product. Nine times out of ten, I would find mistakes I had missed during the read-aloud. I would (albeit reluctantly) make my edits, and turn the essay in.
In later years, I’ve learned to appreciate my mom’s tactic. The amount of mistakes you can catch in a read-aloud is uncanny. Grammar, pacing, dialogue, reading your work aloud unearths all sorts of valuable editing work that you might have otherwise missed.
2. Don’t get overly attached to your work
I can not say this enough. The worst thing you can do for your book is to get overly attached to the initial creation of it. If you really think about it, we’ve all met that person. The one who can’t take any constructive criticism because they already think what they’ve made is perfect. The sad thing is that they might have a wonderful piece of art in the works that’s being completely stymied by their over-attachment.
If you hold on too tightly to your book in the work stages, you’re going to set it up for failure. I know the feeling that your book is like your baby, and with that comes the responsibility to let it grow. No one wants to be the parent of the kid that screams and does whatever it wants because no one ever taught it how to behave. If you truly love your book, you’ll leave it open for real, honest, slash and burn edits. They absolutely stink to go through, but your book will be all the better for it. Don’t take the editing process personally.
This strategy requires discretion. You have to know what you’re about as a writer and where to hold your ground while also relying on the input of sources you can trust. The best way to go about this is to keep a teachable attitude. Decide on a few people whose expertise you trust over everything else and listen to them and them alone. You don’t have to take in every piece of advice that people give you. Smile, nod, and then take it to your editing team.
Needing to make these editing changes to your book is not a sign that it’s a bad book. It just means that your book is growing, and that is a very good thing.
3. Do not attempt editing alone.
Editing is dangerous. Take a friend. This goes along with everything I’ve said about having a teachable attitude. If you can have that, you will have put yourself in a great position to get some help editing your book.
There are a lot of options out there for editors you can work with, but not all options are financially available to a first-time author. If that’s you, (it was certainly me) don’t worry. There are still a lot of choices available to you. Far and away, one of the best options available is to team up with a friend or family member you trust with professional experience.
My college roommate is an amazing editor. She is incredibly talented and in a repeated kindness I’m not sure I’m worthy of, she went through the entirety of Captain Acorn for me with a fine-tooth comb. The edits she sent back to me were absolutely crucial in the creation of my book. Of course, if you’re going to rely on people close to you for editing help, you better make sure you’re properly appreciating them. My former roommate may have a standing promise for a future book dedication…
Editing is downright scary, but it doesn’t have to be crippling. If you develop good habits now, you’ll make the editing process a thousand times easier for yourself. It doesn’t need to be a stumbling block in your book journey. The change from manuscript to book is in the edits. Don’t be afraid to embrace them.
Let’s find some joy,