Monday, May 9, 2011

Editing as an Indie Writer: Twitter Requested Topic

See that picture over there? Yeah, that's me. Well, my red hair is past my shoulders and I would never be caught dead wearing a green shirt, but the implied curse words, exasperated expression, and crumbled pieces of paper? Yeah, that's TOTALLY me when I'm editing.

I put out a call on Twitter for blog topics and ME Summer (@mesummerbooks) said: How to self-edit a story so well that it's as if it has been edited by a professional.

So how do I edit as an indie author? Here's my process:

I write my novel, usually in 30 days (I like the NaNoWriMo method), and then I let it simmer for a few weeks. Then I print it out and edit by hand, with a red pen naturally. I enter all of those changes back into my document and retitle it Second Draft.

YAY! I'm done and ready to go to print!!!! Right? WRONG!

Then I send that copy out to various beta readers. As can you imagine, I have about a zillion writer friends. At this point I usually know what my novel's kryptonite is. Could be story, flow, timing, grammar, whatever. I choose beta readers specifically for their skill set. Some readers will be a beta on one book and not another. It's not because I don't like them anymore, it's simply because I know their skills and use them to my advantage.

Oubliette, for instance, just came back from four betas. You'd be surprised at the breadth of their comments. Except for a few missing words here and there, their comments were completely different! I print a fresh copy of my manuscript and I use my red ink pen to mark all of the corrections on that one copy. Then I enter all of those in my manuscript and save it as Fourth Draft.

YAY! I'm done and ready to go to print!!!! Right? WRONG!

Then I ship my book off to at least two people who proofread. I enter those mistakes into my text, read it one more time, and then it's off to print (well, after extensive formatting, but that's not relevant in this blog post).

I don't take editing lightly. In fact, editing takes far longer than the writing does. Writing takes 30 days, editing can take months. This is why Oubliette, which was originally supposed to release this month, was pushed back until the end of June. When I did my first round of edits, I slashed 10,000 words - one-fifth of my novel. Then I rewrote it. I refuse to release a product I'm not proud of. I know some readers were disappointed they had to wait an extra month to read Oubliette, but trust me, it's totally worth it.

Editing can make, or break, a novel's success. Never rush through it. Never.


  1. Editing scares me! I only know one person to edit and I know I need more.
    Trying to find them...that's where I get lost.

    "I like the NaNoWriMo method"
    I'll have to go check this out and see what it is.

  2. Thanks very much for sharing this. I've been editing my book for about six months now. I agree about everything except nano, I stink at the 30 day feadline lol.

    Beta readers are a fantastic idea!

    Good luck with Oubliette!

    <3 @smitheclaire

  3. Gabriella - what's your genre? If you write for kids, join SCBWI. Nearly every genre has a professional organization and you can use it to connect to other writers. That's how I found 90% of my writer friends. Good luck!

    Claire - Thanks for stopping by. Good luck with your edits too!!! :D

  4. Thanks for sharing your editing method. It's my least favorite writing process, but so necessary.

  5. Jen - I'm curious, are you a plotter or a pantser? I'm a pantser and for me the editing process is fascinating because that's when I really dig deep into my characters. I wonder if plotters already have that experience and editing becomes a drudgery?

    Or it could be quite possible that I'm just weird for enjoying editing. ;) LOL

  6. Megg...the book I'm editing is about infidelity. Any idea where I can find editors for that? I'll have to check out SCBWI as well, my son is writing books in that genre! Thank you!

  7. Is it romance? Then contact RWA (Romance Writers of America). If it's a mystery, try MWA (Mystery Writers of America). Hope that helps!!!

  8. Gabriella, I'm writing a contemporary romance for adults as well, I'm not in the YA genre. I love editing, it's my favorite process. I'd be happy to do some editing for you and if you like my comments, do more. Perhaps we can trade editing eyeballs, since my book will need editors in late June, early July?

  9. That sounds great Elizabeth! I'd love to! You can reach me at
    Megg..mine is actually stories about infidelity, what happened, if they stayed together, it's about different couples and what they went through.

  10. I'm a pantser gone pseudo-plotter. :) I plot a little but the majority of the story is still done by the seat of my pants (usually within 30 days b/c I love Nano too!). Can't wait for Oubliette to come out. Loved Anathema immensely! (I still find myself thinking about it.)

  11. Great post, Megg. It's fascinating to hear how other writers go through the process of editing their books. It's nice to know that it doesn't differ too wildly from my own!
    Good luck on finishing the book and selling thousands!

  12. Yay! Thanks so much for using my blog-post idea, Megg.

    As a proofreader myself, I was thoroughly impressed when I read Anathema of your dearth of errors. As I said in my review, there were fewer errors than in traditionally published books I've read!

    That's why I suggested this post. I wanted to know what your secret was. It looks like the "secret" (as per usual when it comes to writing) is just hard, hard work.

    Love your books. Keep up the high quality! Don't worry--we'll wait. :-)

  13. Thank you for this. I just posted about this very topic on my blog today. I have a memoir that I've edited about a million times, and had professionally edited once. My publishing workshop instructor just sent me back six more edits in a 500 word chapter. Yikes. When will I get there?

  14. Elizabeth & Gabriella - I'm thrilled you met on here. Many happy editing & critiquing sessions to you both! :D

    Erin - You're so sweet. Thank you!!! :) I am a pantser, but my brain is always working on my books. Maybe my novels are plotted subconsciously? ;)

    Suzy - Thanks Suzy!!! :)

    CM - Wow, when is a novel ever there? Something can always be tweaked, I think. It's part running your book through a critique group and part following your gut. Best of luck to you!!!!