Updated: Feb 17
Collaborating with an editor is one of the most critical choices you’ll make when self-publishing a book. Thus, how do you determine whether your manuscript is ready to be sent to an editor? How do you select the appropriate editor? And when do you defer to your editor’s proposed adjustments over your writing style? Discover all the information you require to comprehend the editing procedure.
Checklist for Transitioning from Draft to Manuscript
Read your initial draft aloud. A cursory look identifies apparent faults with the narrative flow and sheds light on POV.
Retrace your steps. Allow yourself a week or two to recover from the book. Refine it until it sings. Give significant consideration to the discussion. Do all of your characters share a similar voice? If they do, modify their speech patterns until each is distinct.
Character arcs should be sketched. Reevaluate the goals and motivations of your story’s major and minor characters.
Collaborate with beta readers. If you are a member of a weekly or monthly writing group, by means, request that they read the book and be prepared to reciprocate or impose on a few opinionated friends.
Utilize the “find” function. Locate overused terms and phrases. Additionally, check adverbs and gerunds. Excessive use of gerunds frequently indicates a problem with tense. Adverbs, on the other hand, should be used sparingly.
Summarize your narrative. Create a brief and lengthy summary; if you’re looking for an agency, give your query letter some thought.
After completing everything the checklist, your manuscript will indeed be transformed from its initial form. Your first draft may cause you embarrassment. That is acceptable. Anne Lamott calms us down in her work, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. “You are permitted to generate mediocre first drafts,” she adds, “because no one will see them except you.”
Take Note of the Style
Generally speaking, once you’ve completed your first draft, it’s a good idea to consider your writing voice and the framework of your story. Though it will be honed, your voice should sound natural. Consider this: Am I telling the tale from a fixed point of view (POV)? Maintaining and serving the point of view of your story requires editing inside the same constructs of the voice and style you authored.
While many editors do, I do not complete the first draft before beginning to edit. I edit as I go. Writers have distinct voices and particular styles. While there are no hard-and-fast rules, the following provides a good foundation for developing confidence in your first draft readiness for submission to an agency, editor, or publisher.
Take Note of the Structure
Following that, consider structure. Consider the narrative and subplots of your story. Did you adhere to your outline if you used one? Are your characters where you expected them to be? According to some writers’ coaches, you should know how your novel will end before you begin. I am not a believer in this. As I progress from ideation to creation, I keep an outline but follow my character’s lead. Before you consider your first draft of a novel, whichever strategy you take, ensure that there are no loose ends.
The Evolution of Independent Author Editing
Publishing a book successfully is not as straightforward as an author authoring something, having it edited, and then printing it.
There is a significant distinction between what established publishers bring to the editing table and what an indie author may be unaware of. Even before it reaches publication, a manuscript may have been examined by a literary agency and an acquisitions editor. Add to these stopgaps that major publishers have entire departments dedicated to performing various revisions on a book before publication.
How to Choose the Appropriate Book Editor
I’m a tough cookie, and I’m not always good at assuaging authors’ egos. I respect my time and prefer to be succinct. This can be unnerving, particularly for new authors. I stagger publication dates and manage several projects concurrently.
Recognize What Is Acceptable
Things come up during a project, which can last between six weeks and six months. Writing is an art form as subjective as book editing is a science. Consider this. On some days, you can churn out 5,000 words; the following morning, you’re unable to connect five phrases.
Editing a book is far from an exact science. While most of it is a matter of mechanics and style, there is an element of inaccuracy, interpretation—and, unfortunately, interruption.
Emergencies in publishing do occur. With a rapidly approaching publication date, a client may ask to assess improvements to their work, putting other projects on hold. Additionally, some projects—even those that appear straightforward at first—hit a literary wall, whether the tense shifts or a subplot goes awry, necessitating an editor to reread/reevaluate/rethink earlier parts of the story. It occurs naturally and takes time, but a skilled book editor will not rush. That is not the way book editing operates.
How we interact with language, particularly in extended narrative form, is subjective and personal, and what constitutes good writing is not exclusively or even necessarily dependent on punctuation. As someone who enjoys reading, writing, and editing, I’ve learned that magic occurs when someone makes their offering appear effortless.
Consider this: excellent writing requires an element of instinct—knowing which words to use, how to balance dialogue and narration, and even how to alter sentence structure so that nothing sounds the same. It’s almost melodic in its quality. A worthy editor understands this and desires to embark on a journey that includes addressing the manuscript’s grammatical technicalities during the book editing stage and delving into this territory of instinct to assist authors in celebrating and honing their natural writing style into genuinely excellent writing.