Editing your book after the first draft is just as important as getting the words down on paper in the first place. The first draft is a stream of thoughts from the author’s mind. The editing process helps to reshape these into something others can understand. Knowing how to edit a book with the reader’s understanding in mind means everything for a successful book.

But before you hire a professional editor to examine the work critically and repair the less obvious grammar or punctuation issues, personally edit your book once or twice first. Bring it through several more drafts so it reaches a stage closer to what you originally intended.

After self-editing, it is time to pass it on to a professional editor to collaborate with you in polishing the final version.

But where do you start?

Preparing to Self-Edit a Book

The first step is to put the book away and try to forget about it for at least two weeks, if not a month. You have been poring over this work for too long. You probably won’t notice that in places, it doesn’t say what you intended, whether because of awkward grammar, incorrect punctuation, or just ambiguous wording.

After some time, read the work again with fresh eyes. Pretend you are reading it for the first time, and try to imagine how another person might interpret your words.

Keep a close eye out for typos. By all means, run your spell-check to catch the most obvious errors. A word of caution: it will not find words that are wrong but are spelled correctly. In fact, sometimes a spell-check can even “correct” words incorrectly and make more of a mess. Use it as a tool, but not as a fail-safe method for editing.

Pay close attention to your citations, and check them against your sources before you send the manuscript to a professional editor. The editor will not know that you meant a different author or title if you have mixed up the names or titles. Cross-check everything one final time to be sure.

The next step is to hire the services of an editor. Now is your chance to not only tidy up your work to perfection, but also to learn about your writing habits.

Everyone has a different set of patterns, techniques, and errors. Having your manuscript edited is a good way to shed light on these and learn from them.

Finally, ensure your work is formatted correctly for the publishing house, university, or publication to which you wish to send it. Not only are there several different style guides available (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.), but often publishing houses or organizations have their own submission guidelines and specifications. Read the instructions carefully and create a unique version for each submission.

By following these basic steps of how to edit your manuscript or article, you can ensure your work gets seen by the right readers.

Self-Editing – How to Edit a Book

A few tips on improving your writing with good self-editing. Avoid common errors and pitfalls to make your book a better read.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “The only kind of writing is rewriting.”¹ There is no doubt that good writing also has a lot to do with sound editing.

So, what are some essential skills needed to edit a book?

Firstly, there are many common grammar and sentence structure issues. One of the most common errors is the run-on sentence. Remember to read your book and break longer sentences into shorter ones. Smaller sentences make the writing much easier to read.

Chapters, paragraphs, sentences, and commas all serve to break the narrative into smaller pieces that are easier for the reader to digest. So make sure your chapters, paragraphs, and sentences don’t run on for too long.

Also, use commas to separate phrases within a sentence. Commas break the sentence down into smaller phrases that are easier to read and understand.

When it comes to editing, the main point to remember is to keep your writing as concise as possible. Avoid repeating words and concepts.

Don’t digress; stick to the central idea or plot of your book. Trim out excess language and unnecessary passages so your writing doesn’t get bogged down with inessentials. Scaling down the details improves the pace of your work, making it a swifter and clearer read.

Also, don’t forget the basics, such as using your spelling and grammar check tools.  The thesaurus is another invaluable tool when it comes to avoiding repetition; synonyms can do wonders for writing.

Get Help When You Edit a Book

There are also many online resources that can help with grammar and citations, such as the Purdue website:

http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

It can often be tough to edit your own work and see it in an objective light. So it’s a good idea to have a professional editor proofread your book before you submit it for possible publication.

Not only will a professional editor correct grammar and spelling errors, but he or she will advise you on how to improve your writing in the future. Your professional editor may also give you invaluable advice on how to submit your work for publication.

Plus, hiring a professional editor only costs a few pennies per word, so it is a good idea to have your book professionally reviewed.

¹https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/1025221-the-only-kind-of-writing-is-rewriting

Originally posted 10/4/2010 and happily updated 10/28/2017. Thanks for reading!

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