Here I am again with my latest proof book in my hands and ready to edit. It’s something I love and dread, especially with the first proof book, because I know I will want to change loads.
I always do.
Proof books are brilliant at helping you to get clarity, because you will see your work in a different way.
Yesterday was a beautiful day as I sat and read the introduction. I knew then that I would rewrite it.
This morning I worked on the next few chapters in bed with a cuppa while the furry ones snored and I was delighted with how I could see more clearly how I wanted to structure these.
This is good stuff and no matter how good a writer or editor you are, there are several things that you must not skimp on, one is is your editing and the second your book cover.
Getting to the first draft is a challenge. But also a brilliant experience as you weave your words, stories and concepts together for your ideal reader. Getting to final draft is magical but is often where we get word, punctuation and grammar blindness. Editing is not easy.
I love the initial parts of editing which is bringing the content to life. However, over time it can get a little tedious. Imagine 50,000 words in front of you and it needs editing. That can seem overwhelming. It will be easier if you chunk it down with an editing plan and do one thing at a time.
First things, first
What is important is that your book is checked and goes through a robust editing process before publishing.
- Do you have an editing plan?
- What is in your editing plan?
- What is your editing process?
- Who will help you to edit and proof your book?
- What tools can you invest in to support the writing and editing process?
When someone selects your book, you want them to open it and to keep turning the pages. The first impression your book makes starts with the front cover, continues (content aside) throughout the layout, spelling, grammar, punctuation, choice of words, context and right through to the blurb on the back cover.
At this stage, it is vital that you treat your book as if it were a business and create a plan that ensures you cover all of the bases. Your book is part of your personal brand and the only way to have a strong personal brand is to carefully define it. No marketer would dream of putting a product (your book) in the marketplace without a clear definition of the brand, who was being targeted and how to communicate the benefits.
Your personal brand is built 24/7 and 365 days per year through what you say, what you do, how you do it, what you look like and the impression you leave. Of course, you are human, and you will make mistakes. Just consider how your book fits with your personal branding vision.
Have an editing plan
This makes sense and is a list of what you need to do. I use one even today after writing so much, because it’s easy to forget things.
Make a list of what needs to be edited
It’s not enough to know that you need to edit, you need an editing plan which contains all of the nitty-gritty stuff that you might miss. I have a long list of stuff for my clients to use once they have been through the magical part of smartening up their copy. We tick all of the boxes before the book goes to the proof reader.
Have an editing process
Do you have an editing process? Here’s what I do:-
- Print and read without marking up the manuscript
- Take time for reflection
- Read with coloured pens and brutally edit
- Edit on screen a few chapters at a time
- Reprint the manuscript and read aloud while editing
- Edit on screen a few chapters at a time
- When I work with clients, I read their book to them and we edit together
- Print, re read and edit
- Then I move onto the final pieces in my editing plan.
You will find it more productive to edit one thing at a time and it doesn’t matter how many times you edit, you will catch other stuff when you are not expecting to. E.g.
- Spelling, grammar and punctuation
- Widows and orphans
- Overused words, jargon and professional terms
- Show and tell
- Flow and readability
- Facts, figures and research
- Introductions and first lines
- Formatting your book- this is where you layout your book ready for print or digital production
- Engaging with your readers thinking and learning style so that they can make meaning from your work
When this is done, I order my first proof book. Then the real editing can take place, which follows the process (more or less above). Your later proof book can go to your beta readers. When you have finalised your editing, the book must go to a proof reader – your last eyes.
Get help with your editing
This can be your partner, friend or coach who will read through your book for you or with you. Hearing your book read aloud is extremely powerful. Beta readers are a group of people who are prepared to read your book with a critical eye and can provide reviews when the book is launched.
You do not have to do this alone.
What tools can you invest in to support the writing and editing process?
All wordprocessors like WORD offer spelling, grammar checkers and a thesaurus. You can go up a notch and invest in Grammarly. I love Grammarly because it gets right into the nitty-gritty of my writing and makes me stop to reflect on what I have written.
There are lots of tools, perhaps try a few until you find the one you like. I did this a few years ago and Grammarly was a no brainer, I invested straight away.
The power of reflection in editing
In order to make sense of your writing, you simply have to leave it. When you are ready to re-read and edit, your mind will be rested and ready to look at it with new eyes. This is when you will be able to get the big not red pen out and sort through your work effectively.
With my book, I am doing a section at a time as I work best in chunks with lots of reflection time.
And finally, never lose sight of who are you writing for
You will have created an ideal reader profile before you started to write. Go back and review this, bring it up to date if needs be. Some points to consider:-
- Are you writing for people in a particular field, such as psychology, health, engineering, sales and marketing? You cannot assume the reader has knowledge of the terminology and concepts you will use
- Do you need to provide background material and additional references? What will these be?
- What expectations does your reader have? Or at least what expectations do you think that they have?
- What kind of thinking/learning style might they have? E.g. an accountant will think differently from an artist or a healer (typically). You may be highly visual, but what about your reader?
- They may be experts, but will they understand your process or ideas?
- How fussy will they be over precise punctuation and grammar? This is soooo important
- Are your case study characters and your story believable?
- Do you have an ‘argumentative’ readership, will they agree or disagree with your point of view? What proof can you offer?
- What about the tone you are setting?
There we have it, a few ideas about editing which I hope has inspired you with your book editing project. Now imagine that you are holding your beautiful book in your hands.