Welcome back to “I have an idea for a book – now what?” In part 1 and 2 we gave you some hints and tips about getting your idea out of your head and onto the page. Writing that first word can seem daunting but we suggested you throw out the rule book and maybe not worry about starting at the beginning and even starting at the end. Just writing is the key - getting down your ideas will help the rest to follow.
In this part we want to share some tips about what to do once you finished writing. The next step is to hone and refine your work so that it starts to read like a book.
Editing your Writing
Editing is an essential step in your writing process and serves multiple purposes. The most obvious are to fix mistakes, clarify, change tone, and hone language for your intended audience. Learning how to be a good editor will make you a better writer overall, because to edit your writing will improve its quality. Editing is crucial for your writing to make it ready to go out into the world and be read. Part of editing is giving consideration to making multiple revisions, checking your punctuation, grammar and spelling and the organisation of your paragraphs and/or plot.
Before doing any of that, however, first we recommend letting it sit for a while. If you can bare it put the writing away for a few days to a week, then reread your work. Your brain needs a break to switch gears from writing to editing mode, so let your draft sit for a while before you begin to edit, any mistakes will be easier to spot. Once you are in editing mode you can check, redraft, refine and improve your writing.
· How is the content - have you included everything you wanted to say? Are there any holes in your plot line? If your character was in London and now they are in America, how did they get there? Is that change in geography feasible or realistic? Go back and get them on that plane!
· Proof-reading your work will also help you check for spelling and punctuation errors. Be careful though! You will have already spent at great deal of time writing and reading your work so our eyes tend to see what the brain expects. This may result in you missing errors. The best way to avoid this is to…read backwards. Yes, that’s what we said – read backwards. Simply read one word at a time from the end of the paragraph to the beginning in reverse order. Any errors will soon reveal themselves.
· Don’t rely too heavily on spell-checker! We know this is a saving grace for many of us but remember computers do not understand context. They're, their or there are all fine to a computer.
· Consider calling in that favour and ask a friend to help you edit. If you’re lucky enough to have someone who can read and help you find mistakes in your work – they are invaluable. Remember though to make sure you show proper gratitude and at the very least give them a loving hug whenever they give you a hand.
· Be prepared to edit and redraft in multiple rounds. We suggest at least two rounds of editing. One for the big concerns such as content, flow and structure and then for the little big stuff such as grammar, spelling, punctuation. Ultimately if you haven’t fixed the big stuff, you’ll have to keep fixing the small stuff over and over. Doing it in that order will help you make the best use of your time.
· Vocabulary and language - check your language style. Are more adjectives and figurative language (like similes and metaphors) needed to illustrate your points better, or are the ones you have already used suitable? For example, is your book set in ye olde worlde times or uber modern future centric? Making those decisions will help your story ring true.
· Have you made strong vocabulary choices? This will depend on your preferred style or even your character do they speak in slang or the Queen’s (or the King’s now) English? Making sure it matches the time period or your character will make your story all the more enjoyable.
iii) Refine & Improve
· Reading your work aloud is a great way to check and refine your writing. It is amazing how much can be heard and corrected, especially verb tense errors which become glaringly obvious! It will also help you focus on the structure of each sentence, rather than just on the overall flow of your writing.
· When reading aloud keep your voice active so you can hear the rhythm of your writing. The best writing sounds smooth, so if you find yourself stammering through poorly worded sentences, you know it needs improving.
· Finally, get rid of the excess. This is the really hard part especially as you are probably very committed to what you have written, and it will be hard to let go. Start by omitting unnecessary words. First drafts are usually much wordier than they need to be. Remember, good revision and editing can transform a mediocre first draft into an excellent final manuscript.
Happy editing and see you for Part 4 where we talk about your publishing route. Imagine being on your way to publishing a book – exciting times! See you then.