Congratulations…you have finished your manuscript! I bet you feel like the hard work is over now that your book is on paper. Well, I hate to break it to you but editing can take just as long or longer than writing the book itself. Follow these 5 essential book manuscript editing strategies to polish your manuscript.
Thorough book manuscript editing involves:
- The Un-edit Edit
- The Implementation Edit
- The Third-person Edit
- The Out-loud Edit
- The Professional Edit
The Creative Dump
The first stage of your manuscript is the creative process. Getting the narrative down on paper. You may be wondering why you don’t edit while you are in the writing process. This is because the creative process accesses the right side of the brain. This is activated when you are writing. The left side of the brain has to do with logical functions and is activated when you are editing.
When the right side of the brain is activated we want to run with it and get the storyline down and onto paper. When we try to write and the left side of the brain is activated…this is when we can experience writer’s block. This is due to the logical brain seeing things in a logical manner and it does not come up with creative solutions.
Manuscript Editing Strategy #1: The Un-edit Edit
The un-edit edit seems like an oxymoron or perhaps even a typo. You read it right, the un-edit edit. This is the phase of the editing process where we go through our story for the first time. Since we were writing with our right side of the brain, you will find grammatical errors, perhaps holes in the storyline and spelling mistakes.
Secondly, you want to note when you are reading slowly or fast. People like an easy read, so that they can absorb the material of the story…not focus on the hard words or sentences. When you find an area that is a slow read, it may be because the text does not make sense, it is out of context, or there’s awkward phrasing or misused words.
If the paragraph is too fast you may have repeated yourself again or not given enough information on the plot, situation or scene.
You want the reader to read your book at a moderate pace.
Make notes on all of these areas discussed for editing, but do not execute them. This is for the second phase.
Manuscript Editing Strategy #2: The Implementation Edit
The implementation edit is the phase where we apply the notes from our first read-through (also known as the first edit). Read through the book and apply the changes if they seem applicable. Rewrite any slow paragraphs so that the storyline flows easily throughout the pages.
If there are fast sentences, consider if there is enough new information in that section. If so, then continue to the next paragraph.
Check your grammar, punctuation, and spelling on this edit. Ensure names are capitalized and that they are spelled the same way throughout the book.
Fact-checking and references are important, especially if you are writing about expert opinions that are not yours. Apply the references that relate to each section that need factual evidence to give it the weight it deserves. I like to use Harvard-style referencing in the back of my book.
Manuscript Editing Strategy #3: The Third-person Edit
Give a friend or family member or two a copy of your manuscript to read through. Ask them for constructive criticism. Chris Craft wrote about this phase in his top writing tips post. It is not helpful if your reviewer comes back saying it’s good with no constructive feedback. That does not help you improve your manuscript. Ask them to check spelling, grammar, and sections that don’t flow with the rest of your story.
You will be surprised by how much you assume someone knows about your character or storyline. The beauty is in the details. Don’t get readers lost…find the holes in your story and expand the information to fill them.
Once you have finished implementing changes from the third-person edit, you are ready for the out-loud edit.
Manuscript Editing Strategy #4: The Out-loud Edit
The out-loud edit is my favorite editing stage. You have been through three intense editing sessions. Are you sure that there is nothing that you have missed? This edit will surprise you. To complete this edit you must read your book aloud. Write down any changes you need to make. You will find a few things that you need to change. Implement the changes immediately. The way we write, read and speak are all a little different depending on your location, culture, and time. For instance, you wouldn’t casually say, “How art thou, Romeo?” Well, unless you are quoting Romeo and Juliet. Yet it is totally fine in a written context. This edit will polish your manuscript and have it ready to send to an agency.
We all want to get published and the quality of our manuscript will determine if a publishing agent picks up your book or not.
While these stages seem daunting and can take months to apply, give yourself and the book the justice it deserves by taking it through this immaculate manuscript editing process.
If you are self-publishing then you would read through the manuscript one more time before moving to the layout phase of your book.
Manuscript Editing Strategy #5: The Professional Edit
Congratulations! Your book got picked up and is working towards getting published. This is the easiest and hardest edit of them all. It is easy because someone else is performing and executing the edit for you. The hard part is that someone is editing for you. Yes, you may have some of your favorite parts of the book removed, which feels like a knife in the heart.
Just know that this is not the final edit and that you can negotiate some of the edits with the publisher and editor. Fight for those scenes that are close to your heart.
I hope that this article has helped you understand the process and purpose of this 5-step manuscript editing strategy. Need help with setting a writing or editing goal? Read about how to use Locke’s goal setting theory.