Editing is the least fun part of writing
You wrote a novel and it’s marvelous. It’s the best thing ever written, formatted like a pro and the cover’s not bad either. You weren’t great at grammar in school and there’s nothing wrong with just shoving it up for sale. Obviously if it’s that good; people will read through the editing typos and not mind.
You know what? They won’t read it or won’t finish it and they’ll also leave you a special gift; a stinky review!
Those of us who’ve been around a bit longer get asked for advice and our mantra is this; editing, editing, editing. We say it like a broken record because it’s important. We also say it because some of us cringe with shame at the thought of the first novel we shoved up on sale. I get a seriously hot flush just thinking about mine. I was the queen of passive voice and overuse of adverbs. It makes me want to lie down in a darkened room just thinking about it. Speech? What speech? Who needs speech in an 150k word novel?
I’ve come a long way and learned a bunch of tricks from some really good editors in the last few years. I even turned my hand at editing but struggled with forcing myself to read genres and styles which didn’t grab me. If it ain’t fun, why do it? I also couldn’t cope with correcting grammar, eliminating bad technique and detonating commas in really crap stories which should’ve stayed inside someone’s head.
But onto your problem.
So, you wrote a novel, your mum loves it and all your aunties bought copies. They left wonderful 5 star reviews and then someone drops the clanger. That 1 star review nails your awful lack of editing.
Not all 1 star reviews are from trolls. Let’s make that clear. If more than one person pings your book for editing then you have a problem.
Don’t start ranting, NEVER unpublish your book, you don’t need to cry for a week; just deal with it.
But I don’t gots no money bro’
Yeah, join the club. But editing’s like breathing. There’s no prizes for those who hold out longest; someone dies and it will be your novel. So here’s the other problem. There are millions of editors online who are happy to take your cash and do a rubbish job. There are tried and tested editing services which cost a fortune but do a good job. You’re broke, you’ve heard horror stories but you still need your novel editing.
1. You can’t edit your own work
You can’t. You really can’t. You become blind to your own faults, a bit like in life really. But if you’re someone who sees the mistakes of other people with little difficulty, then here’s what you do. Download a free app like Calibre and convert your word document to a mobi or epub file. Side load it onto your reading device and voila! Read your novel like it’s someone else’s. You’ll pick up glaring typos, awful grammar problems and all the stuff that bugs you about other people’s work.
Highlight the errors you see
This part is important. Highlight enough text to enable your word document to find that sentence again in a search. Make sure it’s long enough to recognise or you’ll change the wrong sentences.
Add a ‘note’ and save
Make sure your note still makes sense when you’ve been editing for eight hours and want to poke your eyes out with a pencil.
At the end of the process, plug your reading device into your computer
For me, I use Kindle so I’ll explain that method, but other reading devices will be different. Go into your Kindle Documents and you’re looking for the text file of MY CLIPPINGS. Open it up and you’ll see all your notes, which can then be used to edit. Select All and copy the text and paste it into a Word document. Use Find and Replace functions to get rid of all the clippings type text, such as the title which it repeats forty million times and the date and time when you created the note.
Here’s how the editing process looks
I keep both documents open in Word and copy the highlighted sentence into my navigation ‘search’. When the document finds it, I use the editing tip I wrote as a note. There you go. You just removed about 200 problems right there and any editor you engage will charge you less. We hope.
2. Turn on your desktop narrator
So this works for those who notice things audibly. Work your way through as though you’re a reader, but let the narrator read at the same time. It’s a bit like being back in school when you took turns to read. The narrator stumbles a bit but you will notice heaps more doing it this way too. I use Windows 10 and have the choice of a slinky female or husky male. You can speed up or slow the voices too, which is hilarious if you’re bored.
3. Invest in an online editor
To make it clear, I’m not affiliated with any of them but I’ve tried two to date. Grammarly proved an expensive disaster for me and crashed my laptop using the plugin for Word. Not happy and they couldn’t seem to account for it. I wasted hours shutting down my whole machine and starting it up, only to find I lost the last hour of work because I couldn’t click ‘save’ whilst editing, because it screwed up the plugin.
ProWriting Aid has been a fraction of the cost and amazing. It picks up things like missed speech marks, repetition, grammar and typos. Sometimes I run the Windows narrator at the same time as editing individual chapters. Both pieces of software allow you to load up to 3k words into their online service but you won’t be given all the edits apart from the basic ones. Unless you reach for your wallet, of course.
It’s chicken and egg stuff
I know it is; I’ve been there. You’ve written a novel and it needs editing. But editing costs money. Until the novel’s released, there is no money. And round and round you go. If this is you then I wish you the very best of luck. Try the tips listed above but for goodness sake, as soon as you can afford it get a real, flesh and blood editor. Whatever you do though, shop via word of mouth. Get samples of their work and don’t be scared to disagree with them. Everyone wants to put a hand in the tiny pocket containing your royalties, but not everyone deserves the privilege!
K T Bowes is the author of 18 novels and is currently working on 3 more.
You can find out more about her work HERE