Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Self-Editing Tips & Does Poor Editing Make You Stop Reading a Book?

A lot of people ask me what my routine is for self-editing my books (since I was a former editor).  I have a three step system that I use for my manuscript and today I'd like to share the first step.  It's the easiest step and the one that makes me feel good because I can usually check it off pretty quickly.

I call it the CLAW 

Check for basic editing errors like:
  • Page numbering and blank pages
  • Too many adjectives or adverbs  “It was a beautiful sunny June day and the lush, emerald green grass reflected the bright yellow sunlight and hurt my eyes.  Or, “She desperately wanted to kiss him passionately.”
  • Tense consistency and subject/verb agreement  “He couldn't believe that his boss had fired him over a typographical error. He is a great worker and always turns in his projects on time."  Subject/verb agreement, “He run to the store.”
  • Clichés “She’ll come crawling back to me.”  “He couldn’t beat around the bush any longer.”
  • Repetitious descriptions  Weave in your first descriptions and make them powerful enough that you don’t have to beat your reader over the head with more.
  • Favorite words “really”  “just”  “some”  “that”
  • Too many dialogue tags or weird tags   James laughed at her pain. “Don’t bother trying to get away,” he replied.  We don’t need the replied because we know it’s James talking.  And use “said,” in most instances because when you try to get fancy “he pontificated,” or “she remonstrated,” it can take the reader out of the story.
  • Chapter or POV breaks.  Double check that those are correct and done.

Let someone else read it that will give me good feedback.  Not my mother or grandma, but someone who will be honest and somewhat brutal. 

Always print it out and read a hard copy.  Mistakes will jump out at me that way.  Sometimes putting it into a different font can also be helpful in spotting mistakes.

Walk-away for a few hours, days or weeks and come back with fresh eyes.  I’ve created something and I need a bit of time to enjoy that, but I keep thinking about it, and when I come back to it, I’m ready to make the changes I need to.  Anything that doesn’t advance the story must be cut out, even if it’s my favorite part.

So, now I’ve done the basic CLAW checklist, then I send it out to beta readers for some feedback.  But I don’t wait around for them to get back to me.  While they have it, I print out the new copy and read it front to back for any other little changes I might want to make.  Once that’s done, I’m ready for the second round of self-editing.  

We'll talk about that round next time.  

Tell me this, though, do you have a routine for self-editing?  Anything that works for you?  Is there a point where you'll stop reading a book because there's too many typos or editing issues?


Debra Erfert said...

I've done exactly that--put down a book with too many errors. Back before I began writing, I don't think I noticed mistakes as much as I do now, but that was before e-books were invented and self-publishing exploded onto the scene. Now, new authors offer their books at .99 cents, or even for free, and I can hardly resist them--if the storyline sounds good. But not all authors put as much time and effort into putting out a quality product. There should be more C*L*A*W*ing (love the acronym, btw) and less rushing just for the sake of publishing.

If a writer can't afford a professional editor, then s/he should find several non-related beta readers to give feedback in different stages of the writing. And then before publishing, have at least two proof-readers go through it to find those pesky spelling, and or grammatical mistakes. I agree with reading a printed out manuscript. It's amazing how much we can catch seeing the words on paper instead on computer screen.

Britney Gulbrandsen said...

I find errors in just about every book I read. This definitely wasn't the case before I started writing. Sometimes it makes me sad because I can't look at a book simply for its story anymore. I'm constantly editing and trying to learn from what I read. But because I even find errors in books published by major publishing houses, I try to give books/authors the benefit of the doubt (cliche alert!). Everyone makes mistakes!

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Britney, that's so true. In the industry it's said that if a book has around ten errors that's a well-edited book. I've been seeing so many more lately it's a bit disheartening, but the benefit of the doubt is always good.

Debra, I'm like that, too, I like the free ones until I open it up and see all the mistakes. It's hard to overlook that sometimes!

Mary Walker said...

I have a hard time reading a book with a lot of editing errors in it. I usually don't stop reading, but I won't read another book by the author especially if I paid for the book. A few years ago I bought a book that was highly recommended by several reviewers. When I got my copy, I found no less than 12 errors on each page. I was advised that 5000 copies were printed from a nonspell checked version. I was very unhappy that the publisher let it out (for full price). I didn't enjoy the book, and I have never read another book by the author.
I usually edit every book I read, its a habit from my former life as an editor.

Lisa said...

Yes. It's my one pet peeve with indy pubs. I am guilty myself of putting a book out there I thought was "perfect" only to be horrified by my own vanity. At least I stuck my neck out and learned from it. I have an editor now and will NEVER put another book out there without her going through it first.