Editing Tips Overview

My next nonfiction project is on my editing process. I’m less set in stone with this routine, but I still think the general way I do it is solid enough that I can write about it. And I’ll learn more as I write, so maybe by this time next year my editing steps will be down permanently. 

I have four phases of editing that I do before I call it done. And at the end, I have a finished book. Love it or hate it, it’s done. I almost always hate my book by the time I’m at this point. But only because I have overanalyzed every single word so many times that I’ve decided its garbage and it will be a miracle if anyone even reads it. Haha. But I get over it during the last few weeks while I start the promotions and get it formatted for release. 

Anyway, let’s talk about my four phases in general. Over the next few months, I’ll go a little deeper into each part of the process on blog posts and then I’ll bring it all together and fill it out for the book release in October 2022. 

The first phase: After I finish the first draft of a book, I like to let it sit so I can come back to it with fresh eyes. This is a generally accepted practice. I leave the book alone for about a month, depending on what else I have going on, since I usually have more than one project in the works at one time. Then I convert the book file to a PDF and read it on my iPad in an app called Goodnotes. While I read through, I make notes all over it with my smart pencil, like you would with paper and pen. But this way I save a few trees and it still feels like the same experience. I also have a notepad to make notes of bigger picture edits I think about along the way. The type of notes I leave in this first pass are mostly about setting and descriptions because I don’t do the best job of putting them in during the first draft. I also make notes on characters that disappear halfway through the book or things that are mentioned but never followed through. And then I go back in and make those changes. 

The second phase: This is the deep edit. I make scene cards and ask specific questions on whether a scene is necessary and if it works how it is supposed to. I look closely at dialogue and check that all the characters have their own voice. I also explore underlying themes of the book and make sure they play all the way through to their end. I strengthen relationships and storylines and add any scenes necessary to fill in the book. And then I make sure the scenes are in the right order and divided up correctly into chapters. (My first draft is usually just a bunch of scenes in no particular division for chapters.) There’s A LOT more to it, but it’s too much to cram in to this brief summary. 

The third phase: This is where I have a pretty finished book and it’s time to fine-tune the details. I use ProWritingAid to do this. I open it up chapter by chapter and check all the various details; spelling and grammar, of course, but also sentence length and overused words and passive voice. After I’ve checked it one chapter at a time, I run the spelling and grammar over the entire book one last time to make sure I’ve gotten it to the best I can. Grammar I usually get to 100% but sometimes PWA disagrees with me on spelling of words that I might have made up, haha. 

And the last phase: One last read through, on paper. This is the only time I print out my entire book. I read closely and make sure I have left no words out. I read it out loud (mostly, sometimes it’s just a whisper to myself if I’m somewhere around people) to make sure the sentences flow and make sense. And then I add in any of those last changes and call it done. 

This is when it gets sent to betas and editors and advanced reader teams. Because it is as done as I can get it on my own. 

That was a really long overview, but each section is way more in depth than that. I really enjoy the editing process (except for the PWA stage, that’s very tedious) and I’ve spent a lot of time learning tips from several authors and integrated them all into my method. I hope you’ll enjoy the upcoming posts about the more detailed steps. 

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