Tuesday, January 7, 2014

How To Edit A Book

Welcome to my first post for 2014! I am delighted that today marks the beginning of my third year of blogging. :) Thank you all for taking this journey with me thus far, and I hope you'll continue with me all the way to 2015. ;)

“Never rewrite or edit just for the sake of change, only for improvement.” –Helen Gurley Brown

Every writer has their own technique to editing and there is no wrong way to go about it. All I can do is share how I edit my books to help you develop your own technique.

Step 1: Give it a rest!

After you spend months or years (in most cases) writing a book, it is always a good idea to put it down for awhile. Give yourself some space from the characters you’ve been writing about. Give your brain a vacation! Celebrate the fact that you finished your book while your body rejuvenates. During this “vacation” you can work on another story, but whatever you do, don’t touch a single printed manuscript page, or open the file for your book, until time passes! This time period can range from a week, a month, or even a year; whatever you feel is best for you. Just don’t jump into editing immediately after finishing the piece, because you need to let your work stew.

Step 2: Cut it out!

Once I am ready to begin editing, the first thing I always do is make sure there is no passive voice or clichés in my writing. My trick to check for this is to use Microsoft Word’s nifty “Find” tool that will allow you to search an entire document for a word or phrase. For instance: if I enter “was” into the tool, I can go through the whole document to make sure every time I used the word “was” didn’t fall into passive voice. Or I could search for “Sigh of relief” so I can either remove the cliché or rewrite it.

My Fairy Scissors. :P
Step 3: Read it already!

When I’m done using the “Find” tool, I read my manuscript from beginning to end, keeping an eye out for slipping tenses (the moment when you accidentally use “is” instead of “was” for past tense), passive voice I might have missed, head-hopping, and other glaring grammar mistakes. I am reading every sentence carefully, sometimes rewriting them, deleting them, or rearranging them.

Step 4: Read it again!

Reworking your manuscript sentence-by-sentence is tough business, but it has to be done, and even though you may read paragraphs repeatedly while rewriting them, you have to read through the entire manuscript when you finish. Why? Because doing an extensive edit like that sometimes can throw some sentences out of whack. Step away from your book for a while then pick it back up with fresh eyes and read the edits that you made, fixing any words that don’t seem right.

Clover wants to read. lol
Step 5: Read it once more!

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve read through the manuscript for the first book in my series (I think I'm around my thirtieth round of editing), but I've learned that every time I thought it was done, it wasn’t. Even if you feel your manuscript is ready, you should at least read your manuscript a total of three times. When you read your book the third time, it should be a lot more smooth and you should be able to enjoy it as a reader would. At the same time, it’ll be easier for you to spot plot holes and small grammar errors.

Thanks to Kelly Hashway's comment, I would like to add that you can mix up this step by reading aloud and/or backwards starting with the last paragraph and working your way to the first paragraph. I've never tried this, but I've heard great things about the process, so why not give it a go?

Technically, there could be a Step 6 to this process, and that would be to find someone to read your manuscript to point out errors in the story as well as any mistakes you might have missed. You can also hire an editor, which would of course result in more editing. 

The thing that all writers quickly learn is that editing is never over until your book is published. Don’t feel daunted by that prospect though! Take it one step at a time and only when you are ready.

Be patience, stay confident, and one day your manuscript will shine.

TIP: Change the font size and spacing of your document. The difference could help you to spot errors.

QUESTION: Do you have your own editing process/tips? Share it!

If you found this post useful, follow “Write With Fey” to show your support. Thank you!


  1. Can I add reading your manuscript aloud backwards, paragraph by paragraph? You find the most errors that way because you can't focus on the story itself, just the words. And reading aloud helps you hear overly used words.

    1. That is a great suggestion to add! I've heard of reading backwards, but I've never actually tried it. I need to give it a go sometime. :)

  2. Happy New Year, Chrys! Great post. I typically fall out of love with a manuscript right around edit number 4, and then, after I get a "decent" draft, I go through the manuscript from beginning to end 6 times or more. Eh! But it must be done. I totally agree with you about going back and rereading because certain changes throw whole paragraphs out of whack. So true! The only thing I do differently is get readers. At that point I am only looking for feedback on story, not grammar stuff. And then it's off to betas to look for the stuff I missed, and next would be a proofreader. The whole process is so extensive but it's a must.

    1. Happy New Year, Quanie!!!! :D

      I tend to fall out of love with my manuscripts several times during the editing process. Once I finish one round of editing, I love it again. But when I have to do the next round, I hate it! lol

      We really do go through a lot to perfect our manuscripts.

  3. Love the tip about reading backwards, I never thought of that. Definitely one to try.

    Here's to a great third year of blogging for you!

    1. I love it too!

      Thank you! I have some neat stuff planned for my blog this year. :)

  4. So if you read it backwards does the antagonist always win? :-)
    Happy New Year Chrys!

    1. If you read it backwards then I'd say they do. HAHA!

      Happy New Year, David! I'm looking forward to reading all of your hilarious comments for 2014. ;)

  5. Some great tips. I like the suggestion on using the 'find' tool I haven't tried this before but it sounds really useful. I like to read my work out loud as this helps me spot mistakes or awkward phrases.

    Happy New Year, Chrys.

    1. The "find" tool is my favorite tool on Microsoft. I use it all the time. ;)

      Happy New Year, Suzanne!

  6. Okay. That's scary. That's my editing process exactly! Except I do Step #2 while in the WIP stage. :)

  7. Thanks Chrys, for some great tips. In my experience the editing process went on for what seemed like forever. I had a professional editor as well then continued to edit after that. so, yes its ongoing and continues until you deem it perfect :) I'll try some of these great tips for the one I'm working on now.

    1. Editing does take a long time. I have been editing the first book in my supernatural-thriller series since I finished it . . . 5 years ago! haha

      I hope my tips work for you, Lisa. :)

  8. Hi! I am a 16 year old. I am currently writing a werewolf rejection story. It is my first book, so I was wondering how I should be editing my story. So I Google(d) it and came across your blog. It was totally and completely helpful. I am currently writing my tenth chapter. I love your blog. It helped me answer a lot of my questions related to writing a novel or writing a story in my case.

    I have one last question that has been bothering me since quite while. I have written 18 poems till now. How do I edit my poems? Does it have the same method as editing prose?

    1. Poems are generally treated very differently from stories. I don't really edit my poems. The only time I change anything with my poetry is if I'm reading it and I cut out unnecessary words or fix the rhyming to make it sound better.

      I found this that might help you though: http://www.powerpoetry.org/actions/7-tips-editing-poetry

      Good luck! And thank you for visiting my blog! :)

    2. Thank you so much! I shall check this website out! Your blog is a blessing to young authors as well as newbies.

    3. Great! I hope the website helps. And it's so nice to hear that, because that is my goal for my blog. Thank you! :)


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