How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.
Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.
I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.
Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?
RULE No ONE:
Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.
RULE No TWO:
Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.
RULE No THREE:
Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.
In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.
As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth
I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.
Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.
I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?