First, some news: I just finished editing the third novel in the Adam Lapid Mystery series. I’ll hold off on revealing the title just yet, as I am not 100% sure about it. I also don’t know when it will be made available, as there are still some things that need to be done first, like a cover.
That being said, I thought this would be a good time to share my editing process. Some writers have a different system, and you might find that another process works best for you, so if you try mine out and it doesn’t feel right, just try something else. There is no right and wrong here, as long as the end product is good.
I have a four step editing system, which I found works really well.
1. Continual Edits While Writing
The first step occurs while I am writing the novel. Each day, as I sit before my computer, I’ll read the previous day’s work before forging ahead in the story. This helps me to reorient myself in the plot and also to bring to my attention any glaring errors that I committed the day before, in the heat of the creative process.
I call this continual editing. I sort of loop back in the story each day, find and correct any typos, grammar errors, and continuity problems that I find, and then plow on ahead. This way, my manuscript arrives at the end of the first draft having already been edited once, at least.
2. The Read Aloud
What are fiction writers, really? At their core they are storytellers. They are not storywriters, but storytellers.
My role is just the same as that of the man who would sit in a cave by the communal fire and tell stories to our ancestors 20,000 years ago. A story is told, as if spoken aloud.
Of course, hardly no one who reads your books will do so aloud. But, reading your own novel aloud to yourself will expose many mistakes and stylistic imperfections that would have otherwise escaped your notice.
The ear hears things that the eye doesn’t see. So a clunky sentence or a snatch of dialog may look fine on paper, but it may sound wobbly. And readers will sense the wrongness of such a sentence or passage. They may not know exactly why they’re getting a weird feeling, but they will nonetheless, and it will affect their enjoyment of your work.
In addition, in today’s market, with audiobooks making up a growing segment of fiction sales, it would be very wise to make sure your book reads well aloud, as this is the way more and more consumers are likely to experience it.
This is why the second step in my editing process is to read aloud the entire first draft.
3. The Print Reading
After the read-aloud, I print out the entire work and read it on paper.
I don’t know why, but the eye catches a lot of things on paper that it misses on the screen. That’s been my experience, at least.
This can be tedious, as you’ve already written the novel and read it aloud to yourself. The story is not as fresh or exciting as it may be to a reader who comes to it with no prior knowledge of the characters or plot. Still, dig deep and get it done. It will make your work better.
4. Copy Editing
At this point, it is time to let a professional go over your novel. My editor uses a two step system. She goes over the novel, marking mistakes of all sorts, and sends the marked text to me to either incorporate her suggestions or reject them.
Once I do that, I email her the corrected text and she goes over it again, to catch anything she might have missed the first time. This time there are usually very few mistakes, and I either correct them or keep them, if I feel they are stylistically important.
Then the novel is done. It may not be perfect, but no novel is. It is as good as my writing and my story allows it to be. Anyone who reads will be able to judge it primarily on plot and style, and not get distracted by typos or grammatical errors, because there won’t be any (or maybe just a few).
So this is my editing process. I hope you found it useful.