Friday, October 12, 2012

Self-Editing: the final step

SELF-EDITING: the final step
On Wednesday my friend Celeste Jones wrote a blog entry about the perils of Spell Check. So I thought I’d share my method of editing.

One thing I’ve noticed about the Indie publishing world is the stick some of its authors get for bad editing in their books. I can see how this can happen, but let’s not forget that the Big Six also put out books with mistakes! Only last night, while reading a novel from a big-name author—one of my favs—I came across a few mistakes in her book. Things like though when she meant thought and closest when she meant closet. There was another one, but it slips my mind at present. The point is, nobody is perfect, and whilst we would all like to put out pristine books, that often isn’t the case.
However, we can do a few things to ensure we put out the very best final draft we can.  As Indie authors, we have to work harder because unfortunately, we have something to prove. After all, some people think only writers who can’t get book contracts go ahead and settle for the Indie route. When, in actuality, the smart authors take this option.
The very fact that tons of traditionally published authors—of which I’m one—now publish their own work is solid proof that this is the way of the future. Much like when we moved from vinyl to CDs, from VHS to DVDs & from print books to eBooks. The world is going digital and we’d be stupid not to grab a slice of the pie while we can.
I suspect that publishers will soon wise up and include some kind of clause in their author contracts, preventing signed authors from Indie publishing any of their work—whether under a different name or not—while under contract with that publishing house. I’m thinking they will come up with some way to tie contracted authors hands, and hem them in with longer contract years. Or traditional publishing will be outdated in no time.
I digress.
Let’s get back to editing.
First, I’m going to suggest you hook up with at least a couple of good, eagle-eyed critique partners (CPs). I can’t stress how important this is for any writer who is thinking of taking the Indie publishing route. Even big-named authors have several CPs!
Then I’m going to presume you already know the fundamentals of writing and editing. Things like looking for repeated words and repetition, coincidences, too many speech tags, info dumps, point of view (POV) slips, tense slips, too much telling—some telling is necessary and adds to the story, but too much distances the reader.
Okay, you’ve edited for structure, style, grammar and spelling, pacing, goal, motivation & conflict (GMC),character/story arc and all the rest. You’ve read and re-read the MS until you know every word. You’ve even printed it off, and read it from hard copy, because you realised that your mind has played a little trick on you and made you think you saw exactly what you expected to see on those pages. Every line of your pristine MS says precisely what you intended it to say, right?
You now consider your book to be ready.
But wait, there’s one thing you forgot.
You forgot to read it aloud.
Oh, you did that too? Sorry, I meant to say, you forgot to have it read aloud to you!
I learned this trick long ago. You can read your MS aloud and still miss problems. I’ve found that when you get your computer/laptop to read your story aloud, you are far more likely to catch problems with the story. Anything from misused words, to sentences that go nowhere, to story and sentence structure.
When we listen, we engage the left hemisphere of our brains, which is the same part we use when editing. The right hemisphere is our creative side and the left is our logical, analytical side. With our analytical minds engaged, we are able to take a step back from our work and judge it with a critical eye. Enabling better editing.
The excellent bit is, if you own one of the Kindle series that has the text-to-speech function, all you need to do is email your Word doc to your Kindle email addy, and it’ll be sent directly to your Kindle.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy!
Now all you have to do is make yourself a hot drink, and listen with a critical ear. You now get to hear how your book sounds to the reader.
I would love to hear your final editing step. The one you take just before you hit the upload button! Please share with us by leaving a comment below.
Thanks :)
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  1. Thanks for the shout out! Excellent post. When you mentioned having it read to you, I wondered what you meant, but now I understand. I haven't tried the text to speech function because I was afraid it would sound like the computer generated voice on the weather radar channel: "Part-lee clouuuudeee".

  2. ROTFL!

    It is computer-like but it does what I want it to. It let's me hear if I have any mistakes. The most annoying thing I see in books is the "though" when it's meant to be "thought". Text-to-speech read-back will pick that up.

    Thanks for stopping by, but you didn't say what method you use to edit before you send you work off. ;)

  3. Great post full of awesome advice!! Thanks so much! I have a fabulous CP who doesn't miss a thing! I couldn't live or write without her!!

  4. I do this - but I do it before I send it to my cps - I want to find most of the really dumb mistakes before they point them out!

  5. Ooh, I love the idea of having it read aloud to me. I never would have thought of that. Yet, it makes sense. I'm actually a terrible proof reader when it comes to my own work. I know what I think it should say and so that's how I see it. Thank goodness for my CP's.

  6. I read aloud in an English accent.

  7. Excellent post, Monique! I've done the text to speech thing on the Kindle and find it very helpful. I had my book tradionally published and reading it after its release found two mistakes that I pray no one else notices! : )

  8. Great post. I recently discovered that my Kindle Fire will read aloud to me. What a great editing tool.

  9. Excellent post. And I'm going to have my Kindle read my WIP to me.

  10. Jennifer, I know how you feel about your CPs. I LOVE mine and would be devastated if I ever lost them!

    Bobby, thanks so much for stopping by :).

    Daryl, I hear you. It's become almost addictive and I find myself reaching for my Kindle after almost every scene :D.

  11. :) Dawn, I know, right?

    Before I got my Kindle, I used to save my work as PDF and have my laptop read it to me. Then once I discovered the ease and convenience of my Kindle, I haven't looked back!!

    It makes my editing life so much easier.

  12. LOL. Ella, is that you or your Kindle reading in an English accent?

    Tere, I'm sure a couple of mistakes won't taint the readers opinion, or enjoyment, of your books! ;D

    Val, how cool. I heard that the new Kindles no longer have the text-to-speech function, so that's great to hear!

    Brenda, you'll be thrilled you did! It makes such a difference when you hear your work being read by someone/thing else.

  13. That's a fantastic tip that I'll be sure to use in future. Great post, Monique. Thanks for sharing. :)

  14. Excellent post, Monique!

    I heard about the benefits of having your work read out aloud by someone else, but until now, for some odd reason, I never considered doing it, so thank you!

    I rely heavily on my critique partners to catch things I've grown blind too but before I send it to my editor I use one of the online grammar/spell check tools - they're not 100% but every little self-editing helps. I use edit minion and ginger most.

    Thanks for sharing!

  15. Interesting post. I will try your suggestion with my Kindle. I just hope that droning voice doesn't put me to ... zzzzzz.
    My Kindle has a keyboard and I use that feature a lot when reviewing. I have yet to read a book without editing errors, although I only found two in Melissa Foster's "Chasing Amanda." Authors should be aware that reviewers do keep track of proofreading errors. At one time, I prepared errata sheets for the publisher, but gave that up. Some books simply had too many errors.

  16. That is without a doubt one of the best editing ideas I've ever heard. Can't wait to try it. I have a Fire (yah, the old one... Can't afford to replace it) but I think it is capable of reading my stuff. And with the free program Calibre, I'll bet I could convert to any reader that does audio too.

    Thanks again.

  17. Hi Monique,

    A lot of great advice here. I'll share your link with other author friends. Thanks very much for the 'reading out loud' tip.

    Destiny Blaine

  18. Melissa, let us know if it helps to improve your final draft!

    April, good idea! Thanks for sharing :)

    Hugs x

  19. Hi, James, nice to meet you. I think you can increase the text-to-speech reading speed so it doesn't drone you to sleep :)

    Allison, it's my pleasure to share! Hope the tips help to make life easier.

    Thanks loads for the word-of-mouth marketing, Destiny. I hope my future "Pull Up a Chair With Mon" features will prove just as helpful!

    Hugs x

  20. Great Post. I've never download my manuscripts onto my Kindle and after reading your post, I did just that and listened to my novel - what a way to do a final editing on the entire story. Thank you so much for your help. Judy

  21. Hi, Judy,

    You are very welcome! It makes such a difference when you hear the novel read aloud. Glad you liked the tip! :)


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