You will find as many ways of editing your manuscript as there are grains of sand upon the beach. That’s because editing is as much an art form as writing. No two people do it exactly the same, nor should they.
However, when it comes to self-editing, there are some basic chores you need to do to get your ‘script ready for a professional edit. These are my Top Five Recommendations:
1. Put your manuscript away for a couple of weeks. Longer, if possible. Why? Because it’s too soon, you’re too close, and you’re not going to see what needs to be changed or corrected when you’re right on top of it. Let the manuscript “cool” for a little bit. You’ll be amazed at what you see when you re-open the document.
2. Take the editing in rounds, big picture to little picture. If you try to get everything in one round, it’s likely you’ll experience frustration, discouragement, and probably rage. You might reach for a hammer. Slow down, tiger, and take one round at a time.
3. Outline. If you’re a die-hard pantser and did not work from an outline, that’s fabulous. Everyone has their own way of writing, and there’s no “right” way or “wrong” way. But for the purpose of getting your ‘script into fighting shape, whether you outlined or not, it’s a good idea to create an outline from the completed material. Things could have changed from your original outline. It doesn’t have to be detailed, but enough to keep you in a straight line. *Note: It’s a good idea to share these kinds of documents with your editor.
4. Construct a style sheet or compendium. Especially if you’re working on a series, a style sheet or compendium is a must. If you start it now, it will save you so many headaches down the line. Include the proper spelling of names, locations, physical attributes of your characters…you can use an Excel spreadsheet to help. Trust me, you’ll thank me for this later when you’re in book three and can’t remember what color so-and-so’s eyes were in the first book.
5. Include a Bug Word list. Every writer has bug words. These are words you may overuse and just don’t see anymore when you’re writing. And, the bug words can change from manuscript to manuscript. TRUE STORY. Keep a list of the ones you see most often, and utilize your Search and Find function. This can really save you a lot of time when you’re whipping through a manuscript.
Next post we’ll talk about the FIRST READ. Sign up for the monthly newsletter and get your editing tips and tricks before the crowd!