I passed the writing phase for “I Know You Like a Murder” and was on to the editing phase. When asking writers further along in the writing journey, I found that most don’t have a step-by-step system for their editing, they just read through and edit whatever they see needs fixed.
I collected a list of editing resources for everyone who might need it, and then I set out on figuring out my editing system. This isn’t necessarily the best system and it’s not necessarily the one that will work for you, but this is a first step for me – and maybe for you – to finding the system that works for us as individuals.
Note: The items I link to in this post are free online resources. Though some have paid options, I used the free version and it was very helpful.
1) Edit what I already know needs fixing
When we’re writing, we’re supposed to just keep writing. Not stop and edit as we go. And inevitably as I go I realize there’s something that doesn’t work for the story that I need to change a couple chapters back or whatever. So while I write, I make note of it on my Trello board (a great free task manager system, check it out). So my first step in the editing process is going to that Trello board and seeing what needs done, then doing it. Easy peasy.
2) Edit what’s boring
It’s more than just what’s boring, but that’s what I’ve found is easiest to track what I’m wanting to change. I read through the story and think – where am I bored? Where does the plot fall flat, or the characters get annoying, or the wording just not interest me? Those parts I change, or even remove. Then I re-read through the story again with this new draft and ask again – where am I bored?
3) Get rid of blehh words
Then I look at my list of most frequently used words. I do this right in my Scrivener software (this costs money, but you can do this step for free with this online text analyzer).
You’ll see “the” “and” and “a” used alot of course. But look for other boring words, words that suggest lazy writing. For me, “was”, “get”, and “here”, were much overused and I found myself changing those sentences alot. But I spent an entire day going through the list of boring words to see which ones were actually problematic. Besides that, look for words you overuse that maybe you don’t want to – maybe you describe everything as “glorious” and you should switch it up to “magnificent” or “stunning.” Or maybe you just need to find some way to show it’s glorious without telling the reader 😉
Another thing to look for is something your narrator or protagonist wouldn’t use personality-wise. For instance, my narrator used “maybe” alot in her sentences. Only, that’s not the narrator’s character at all. My narrator is actually very forceful, hyperbole, over-the-top, absolute. Not wishy-washy “maybe”ing around the statements. So I took out alot of “maybe” too.
4) Hemingway Editor time
This may have been my favorite tool I found. I check the readability grade isn’t ridiculously high for some obscure word. And I see all these potential sentence-level problems color-coded that I can look through and change as needed.
5) Use that program spell-checker
Hey, I might miss something. In fact, I say “alot” alot instead of “a lot.” You probably noticed 😉 That’s where Scrivener or Microsoft Word’s spell-checker comes in handy. I quickly run through it and make sure I didn’t miss anything grammar or spelling related.
6) Hear someone else read it
Maybe you don’t have a person to read it, and that’s fine, because you can have a robot read it. It’s like Siri but for your book 🙂 Maybe this step should have come earlier, but I wanted to save this as my final fail-safe type step. I think it’s perfect, now let’s see if it is. Let’s hear someone else read it. Let’s see where it sounds awkward or jumbled, and let’s see what I wouldn’t want to hear someone else reading. Then of course I changed whatever felt weird there.
And that’s it. After that, I got ready to send the book to beta readers. I’ll do a post about that “got ready” part, because that wasn’t particularly simple.
What’s your steps for editing or resources you use? Would love to hear in the comments below.