Once you’ve written your book, you need to edit it. Though you certainly can (and should) have an outside editor at least proofread your book, you’ll need to do some of that work yourself as well. That’s because no book really is done after writing a first draft; in fact, you’ll probably find a lot that you want to change after reading what you initially wrote. In addition, you’ll want to read over any corrections that an editor makes, if only to ensure that he didn’t unintentionally change the meaning of a passage you wrote.
All too often when self-editing, though, authors have difficulty finding their own errors. That’s because authors usually are too close to their own writing. They know what they meant and being familiar with the content often glaze over typos.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to help yourself edit your own manuscript:
• Use spell check – Don’t rely on spell and grammar check to catch all errors, but it’ll catch a number of basic typos, particularly misspellings. Take your time using spell and grammar checks; that is, don’t speed through it, or you run the risk of okaying an error that the computer program caught.
• Edit a printed copy – Especially for people who grew up without computers, print out your book and edit it with a red or green pen. Since we read material on computer screens (typically by scanning bullet points with breaks between paragraphs) differently than we do on a piece of paper, you’re more likely to catch typos by looking at a printout.
• Read it aloud – Go a step further and read the printed copy out loud. Reading aloud forces you to read every word, to hear the rhythm of the sentences, and to go slower, improving the odds that you’ll spot typos.
• Edit in small chunks – The longer you edit a work, the more likely your eyes will glaze over the passages as you near the ending. Rather than attempting to edit half of a book in a day, limit yourself to a chapter or two. If you must edit half of a book in a day, take a break between chapters; be sure to do some other activity so that your mind doesn’t think about the book during the break.
• Edit backward – Read the printed copy of the book from end to beginning; that is, read the book’s last paragraph first, the second to last paragraph next, and so on. This method presumes you’ve previously reviewed the book for its organization and are good with it, as you’ll mainly catch typos using this method.
• Correct and re-edit – Don’t be satisfied with one read through of a book. After making the corrections from your first round, edit it again. At the very least, read the sections you corrected to ensure that your editing didn’t introduce typos or other errors into the piece.
My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.