Book Editing: How To Turn a Mess Into a Book

How to edit your book

Writing a book is fun. Book editing? No matter whether you’re writing fiction, or nonfiction, editing can be a horror story, or a pain in the rear end… or it can be enjoyable. If you’d like to make editing your book a pleasant experience, read on.

Do your own editing first.

Before we look at editing your book, let’s look at professional editing. Thanks to the publishing revolution, with more and more authors going the self-publishing route, book editors are faced with a growing market for their services. However, they’re also faced with the job of educating that market.

Happy days, right? With so many editors available, you can let yourself rip and not worry about editing at all…

Not so. Vital: you must edit your book yourself, before anyone else sees your book.

Leaving aside the fact that if you dump a mess into an editor’s lap it will cost you a small fortune to get it cleaned up, your own editing is important, because:

  • It’s your chance to discover the story you want to tell (this applies to both nonfiction and fiction);
  • It’s your big chance to make your book better.

If your editor’s too busy cleaning up messes, she can’t help you to improve your book. The better your self-editing, the happier your editor will be, and the more you’ll get out of the money you spend.

Self-editing in 6 steps.

I gave you a self-editing process in this article:

Create an Outline from What You’ve Written

Your first step is to read through your book, and create an outline from what you’ve actually written. Create the outline in another document, and print it out.

If you see gaps in the structure where you need material, mark these areas on the draft.

Follow those steps.

What if you can’t afford professional editing?

If you’re a new writer, you may not be able to afford professional editing.

Although there’s no replacement for a professional editor, you can help yourself. Here are some tips.

  1. Get at least two beta readers.
  2. Trade proofreading services with another writer.
  3. Leave as much time as you can between writing your book, and editing it.

I like to leave at least a month. After a month, you should be able to look at your manuscript with a fresh eye. Then you can go over it, and do the best you can.

Keep an eye on your reviews. If reviewers tell you you don’t have a plot, there’s not much you can do about that. You may be able to rewrite, but forget that, and write another book. On the other hand, if your reviewers point out grammar mistakes, and typos, correct them.

Another option for you if you’re on a budget (or want to save time): use an editing app

I recently trialed ProWritingAid as a quick editing solution; then I bought a subscription. (Not an affiliate link.)

Primarily I bought the subscription because I’m updating and republishing older books — they need revamping, and new covers. Rather then commission an editor, using the app means that I can zip through it myself. The app catches awkward constructions and much more, so it’s proved its worth in a month of use.

Much as I love editors, commissioning an editor takes precious TIME. If you want to get something done pronto, an editing app is super-handy.

Book editing needn’t be stressful. If you’re doing it yourself, remember to leave your book for a while before you start editing and then follow the six step process.

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Updated: April 15, 2019

photo credit: excitingsounds via photopin cc

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.