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The Secret to Editing
Your Own Book

 

In the article ”Having Your Book Professionally Edited” we explained the difficulties of editing yourself and the benefits of having a professional do it for you. If you have not read that then please go back and review it first before reading this.

 

There are many reasons why you might want to try to edit your book yourself, cost being one of them. If that is your only reason then I want to remind you that the benefits of a professional editor may mean the difference between a good book and a great book. Still, there is a cost, and if you are working on a limited budget, we understand seeking alternatives. Also, if you are not interested in a full publication at this point, and only want to get some of your material 'out there' on the internet, then a full editing service may be more than you need.

 

The first step to self editing is to make use of any resources you have at hand. Most word processors include a full spell and grammar check component. Libre Office or Open Office are good free word processing programs that will do this for you, as will the paid for programs like Word Perfect or Microsoft Word. All of these will give you a good start, and I recommend putting your book through more than one of them. None of these programs are perfect, and all will miss words, or make incorrect grammar edits. And remember, correctly spelled but 'wrong' words like homonyms --"there," "they're" and "their" --are ignored. Grammar check is even less precise than spell check and is prone to making changes that do not fit with your story style. Still, these resources are good starting points for the do-it-yourselfer.

 

There are also online sources, where, for a modest fee, you can upload your book and run it through a professional editing program. Most of the online resources are better than the ones that come with a word processor, as they are geared to the book writing process.

 

None of these methods are 100% reliable, and you are still left with the need to manually edit. The next step is to reread your manuscript out loud. That is the secret! By reading out loud you are forced to say every word. This eliminates the problem of your brain automatically skipping over or auto-correcting on the fly. By reading out loud you will pick up a great many things that you would otherwise miss. If you need someone to read to, try your dog. Dogs are good listeners and will like everything you say. Some people find that printing their document and reading from printed sheets is a powerful way to enhance the process, and this gives you a margin to pencil in corrections.  If you can afford the ink and paper, we recommend working from printed sheets.

 

After using your word processor's correction features and possibly an online service and then finally reading it out loud, you are almost done. And I'm sure that by now you are more than ready to be done. We would like to recommend one more reading, this one silently as you would normally read. This time not looking for spelling or grammar errors but rather reading your book as someone looking at it for the first time. You are reading for pleasure, noting how the story flows, looking for inconsistencies and redundancies. These are the things that will appear to the general reader and will make the difference between a good and a great book.  This step is often most effective if you leave the manuscript alone for a period days (at least), so that details are not so fresh in your mind.

 

Yes, there is a lot of work to editing your book, possibly more than the writing itself, but you want your book to be as good as it can be, and it is well worth the effort. Now you understand a little better what a professional editor does, mostly without the help of proof-reading software. Good luck with your editing.