Editing a book is a difficult job, especially if you’re doing it yourself. No matter how closely you pay attention, and how sharply you focus, as the hundreds of pages go by, things slip through. Below are three tips for better editing that have been working well for me.
Don’t save it for last
Many authors tend to finish the entire manuscript before they start on editing. If you’re doing it yourself however, this approach can be a bit daunting. Rather than approach an entire, unedited book head-on, I find I do better editing by doing light edits on each chapter as I finish.
With the big stuff already taken care of, post-completion editing becomes much less stressful. Rather than approaching a land-mine of potential prose, spelling, and grammatical errors, you’re just polishing things up. This allows more time to deal with all the inevitable formatting issues you’ll have setting it up for print and ebook.
Better editing by reading aloud
Reading silently is faster, quieter, and can be done anywhere without disturbing anyone. It is also very inefficient for editing. I didn’t realize how many mistakes were automatically filtered when I read to myself until I started reading my work aloud to others.
Read aloud, any mistakes you find will cause you to stumble. Long sentences will leave you out of breath. Language that doesn’t flow right will leave you tongue-tied. Reading aloud will deliver better editing results simply because it draws attention to the things that need work, and makes it require intentional effort to ignore them. If it’s easier to fix something than ignore it, it tends to get fixed.
As an added bonus, if you read your work aloud to a friend or loved one, it makes it feel much less like work. Editing doesn’t have to be be slow and boring – It can be an excuse to spend some time with someone important.
Keep Things Quiet
Music and ambient noise can have postive effects of writing. When editing however, I find music hinders my progress, regardless of type.
As you edit your work, a lot of questions are being asked inside your head. Is this word spelled correctly? Does this work better with, or without a comma? Am I using the same adjectives too often? Does this paragraph flow, or does it feel awkward and stilted?
All of these questions are being asked in unison, and your brain is having to process a lot of different things at once. Introducing additional input in the form of music or ambient noise only gives it more to filter out. The more input it begins to filter, the more that filtering effect tends to bleed over into your editing.
Where music can stimulate creative flow, it only seems to hinder critical examination.
Summing It Up
Better editing comes from a less arduous editing process. Breaking things down into smaller pieces makes the work seem less daunting. Reading aloud can highlight easily missed mistakes and provide the motivation to fix them. If all else fails, a bit of quiet can both speed up your editing and reduce the chances of overlooking a mistake.