How To Edit Your Writing Project (Book, Novel, Story, Etc.)
November 16, 2021 | By: Blaize
Michael Crichton once said, “Books aren’t written - they’re rewritten. Including your own.”
He’s right, and that process of rewriting is editing. When he started writing, editing literally meant rewriting things time and again, but with modern technology, this process is iterative such that your manuscript evolves from a crude state to a final product. In this video, I’ll give you a peek into the editing process I use and talk about the different kinds of editing to help you work on your own edits for your writing projects.
Developmental editing focuses on editing the structure and flow of the book to make sure the book makes sense. This process starts long before the first word is pinned in the planning phase of writing. There are several ways to do this but have some method that gives you a framework to build on with content.
Substantive editing works on ensuring that the content of a book meets the desired goals. This sort of editing looks at character development, thematic development, plot structure, dialog, and other aspects to make the content flow without boring or confusing the reader.
Line editing works on readability. It looks at sentence and paragraph structures to ensure that these are easy to read, easy to understand, and ensure your book flows well.
Copy editing focuses on the more formal aspects of writing to meet stylistic goals. It looks for ways to avoid passive voice, avoid cliches, ensure that your writing uses the proper voice and tense, and other such aspects. If you’re writing to a formal standard like APA, then copyediting ensures that you’re formatting the work correctly.
Proofreading looks at the mechanics of language to fix things like spelling, punctuation, and grammatical issues.
My process for editing is multifaceted. I don’t do any one particular editing at a time. As I edit, I make comments for developmental editing, delete text sections, add new ones, reorder sections, and these sorts of things. All the while I am making line edits, copy edits, and proofreading.
Reading a book aloud helps you hear what your readers will “hear” when they read the book themselves. For me, it’s hard to read my work, so I use the “Read Aloud” feature in Microsoft Word. If you can read it aloud yourself, then at least do this.
After reading the book for the first time, I rework the content according to the notes and editorial remarks I make in the text. This sometimes means adding new chapters, deleting existing ones, re-arranging content, or rewriting sections of the text from scratch. Regardless, this is when I do many of the “big picture” edits.
By this point, I am usually through with my major edits, so I’m mostly focusing on line edits and copy edits while proofreading. I also do this to ensure that I’m satisfied with the edits I’ve made.
I run my books through Grammarly and ProWritingAid a chapter at a time. Grammarly and ProWritingAid will pick up on line edits, copy edits, and proofreading issues that help polish the writing. Not everything the software suggests is necessarily good, nor will it catch everything. However, both are immensely helpful for cleaning up writing.
Some of the suggestions the software makes can impact the readability of a book, so rereading it after this can help smooth out some of the changes introduced by the software. Also, it helps find more issues with copyediting and proofreading.
A second set of eyes (such as beta readers, copyeditors, or proofreaders) can help clean up your writing even more. Get feedback on your work before publishing it!
After getting feedback from readers, make more edits. Some of these will be substantive, while others will be more mechanical. Regardless, listen to your readers and make adjustments accordingly.
As a final edit, read the book aloud a few more times to make sure. By this point, I’m usually done with editing and looking for any remaining copy edits or proofing edits I can make before I publish the book.