There are standard editing steps that most authors follow—but for indie publishing, there are generally a few more.
Because the buck stops here. We’re on our own. Every writer needs to be a sharp-eyed self-editor, but for indie writers, that’s even more important than ever. We’re the only one responsible for our published output. We have to be more attentive to detail, go a few extra rounds.
While writing a book, I do some editing on chapter one as soon as it’s finished, to be sure I’ve covered necessary elements—GMC, setting, basic story setup—but after that, I don’t edit. I don’t mean I don’t pause to correct typos or simple details, but while I’m working on the first draft, I keep moving forward. I do, however, keep a list of things, as they occur to me, to check when I get done.
Once the manuscript is complete, I make myself shelve it for at least two days, longer if I can keep my antsy little hands off of it. I do something else that’s totally non-writing, like house cleaning, so my brain can take a rest. Then I return to paper-grading mode—pretend I’m back in the classroom, analyzing student reports and business correspondence.
ROUND ONE – The normal stuff most authors do.
I know there are those who insist that all editing be done on-screen, but like a hard copy to edit. A major reason is that I can flip through the pages easily when I run across what I think are repetitions or inconsistencies that I want to compare in another location. Another reason is that I can read for long periods without glare from the computer screen.
Read it aloud. This exercise can be helpful in identifying awkward sentences, missing and repetitive words, and misspellings.
A. Story Edit
Read through the entire manuscript for structure and content, looking for new ideas and anything that doesn’t fit—plot holes, word usage, redundancies, inconsistent details, and ways to strengthen the story, sentences, and paragraphs. Here’s a checklist:
1. Look up any facts about which you’re unsure.
2. Check formatting.
3. End of scene and chapter hooks.
4. Does each scene move the story forward?
5. Is there plenty of white space?
6. Cut backstory dumps. Weave it in gradually.
7. Have you shown rather than told?
B. Copy Edit
Read for punctuation, spelling, and technical formatting glitches. During this round, check for the following:
1. Run Spell and Grammar Checks.
2. Search out the weasel words—the “pet” ones we say from habit.
3. Check sentence starts.
4. Trim sentences—probably about ten percent of your words. Write tight. Less is more, and usually better. Watch for repetitions, wishy-washy phrases (in my opinion, it is my belief, etc.), flowery descriptions, too long sentences, and unnecessary adjectives.
5. Check comma usage.
6. Avoid overuse of punctuation (like exclamation marks).
7. Check for proper use of verb conjugation.
8. Check for unnecessary dialogue tags. Almost always use ‘said’ as a tag. Flowery verbs are distracting. Stick with said and asked, with an occasional replied or answered.
9. Check for passive construction. Use active verbs and nouns.
10. Check tenses. It’s easy to lapse into past tense when writing present, or vice versa.
11. Check for alien movement of body parts (her eyes flew to… His head followed …).
12. Be sure you’ve been consistent with the number of spaces before and after chapter headings and scene breaks.
ROUND TWO – The indie/hybrid round.
Now that I’ve been through those checklists, more than once, it’s time for a few more steps. Here’s my process.
1. I send the manuscript to an editor.
2. When the manuscript is returned to me, I go back through it again, adding any more edits of my own to what my editor friend has noted.
3. Then I send it back to my editor, who proofreads it.
4. When she returns it, I insert her changes.
5. Then I proofread the whole thing again. Mistakes happen even in editing.
6. I may review and polish again. And again. Then I turn it loose and publish it.
7. Now I have one more opportunity to proofread—when the print proof copy comes.
Then I HAVE to stop. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. It simply means my brain is getting fuzzy and I will probably do more harm than good if I continue. It’s time to QUIT. It’s DONE.
Are there any steps you do that I’ve missed Any tricks you want to share? When do you know it's time to stop? Share in the comments!
As a giveaway, I’m making book one of my new Lake Ozark Ladies series, Paige’s Proposal, free today. Help yourself. If you enjoy it, a review is always appreciated.
Paige Kimball is manipulated into the ridiculous stunt of proposing to the next man who enters the hotel lobby. Shock follows when the Lake Ozark businessman accepts, gives her a ring, and walks away.
More shock follows when Paige learns that Holt Taylor is the father of the twin girls who are disrupting her band class with their rowdy behavior. When Holt asks her to befriend his motherless daughters and spend time with them outside of school, she can’t refuse the request. But can Paige maintain this kind of close contact and resist falling for a handsome man who doesn't share her faith—or risk repeating the kind of mistake her mother made?
Can Holt overcome the betrayals he's suffered and learn to trust God and chance love again?
Enjoy these other books in the Lake Ozark's Ladies Series!
Brooke's Bargain, Haley's Hero and Kelsey's Keeper!
Helen Gray grew up in a small Missouri town and married her pastor. While working alongside her husband in his ministry, she had three children, taught school, directed/accompanied church music programs, and became an amateur ventriloquist. Now retired, with the children gone from the nest, she and her supportive husband still live in their native Missouri Ozarks where he roams the woods, hunts, and fishes, and she weaves stories meant to honor God and depict Christian lives and problems as she knows and observes them. Helen thanks God for the time and opportunity to write and considers it an added blessing if her stories touch others in even a small way.