June 14, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
How I Learned to Write – June 14th, 2017
Self-Editing and Finding an Editor
The past few months have been hectic, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I finished Seth (A Dark Assassins World Novella), edited it, sent it to my editor, revised it, and read it over and over until I was satisfied before I released the book in February. Then I outlined an entire story, threw most of it away, started the outline over again and then wrote half of it (which was a struggle). I finally decided to ditch that WIP and start an entirely new story, Unexpected (A Unexpected Novel Book One), in April, and I kept the release date as May 30th. So in two months, I had to outline, write, edit, and revise.
And you will find as a writer, no matter how many books you write, there are always going to be aspects of the writing process that you dislike and maybe even loathe, but it’s all part of the process. My two least favorite are self-editing, before I send the manuscript off to my editor, and marketing (that will be part of a future blog).
Where To Start
If you just started writing and you don’t have a background in grammar or creative writing, the best way is to learn as you go. About two years ago, I found wonderful free online classes on english and creative writing from real Universities and Colleges throughout the country online at Coursera. The classes only last a few weeks and the courses are setup like a typical college curriculum. If you need a refresher on grammar, structure, or creative writing, Coursera is a wonderful place to learn.
A great resource for editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print.
It’s a wonderful resource that allows you to edit your manuscript in distinct steps that focus on structure, characterization, plot, and in the end, grammar.
How I Edit
I learned early on to never, ever, edit as you go. The reason behind this is that you will never get past the first paragraph if you go back over and over words that you just wrote. With my first novel, I made the mistake of writing a paragraph, becoming proud that I at least got something down on paper, but read over it and realized it was horrible. I went back and changed it, but I was dissatisfied with that and changed it again. It’s a vicious cycle that you can’t get out of.
What I recommend is that you create an outline, first in a notebook as you write it out longhand. Setup your plot points, fill out the story the best you can before you start writing, and learn your characters inside and out. After you have created your outline, you can go back over it and fill out what you missed, until you have a solid structure to start.
After I have my outline, my plot points set, and my characters developed with their own distinct personalities, I then enter my outline (broken up in scenes and chapters) into Scrivener. I make sure to indicate what chapter/scene correlates with what plot point and by entering your notes into Scrivener, it helps you realize that you might be missing something or you can add more detail to a scene that seems thin.
I write based directly from my outline, scene by scene, plot point by plot point. Based on the notes, my writing takes less time than outlining and for this reason you can just create your story without having to pause to figure out where your story is going. And while writing, don’t re-read your story.
Some writer’s, like K.M. Weiland and her site Helping Writers Become Authors advise that you write until they reach the midpoint, and then read over your work from the beginning. Other advise that you write your manuscript and then shelve it for three months or more before you take it out and read over it again. I find that I don’t have time to wait and I need to edit it immediately.
I write the entire book and then read it over several times, making the corrections that I find, check if the plot makes sense, and then read over it again. When I’m satisfied with it, I send it off to my editor. There will always be changes from your editor because you are too close to the work in order to catch everything. You make changes, and if needed, ask your editor for any clarifications or have them read over your changes. Since I started with my editor, she makes one pass at it and it’s very thorough that I find that there’s no need to send it back.
Now comes the revisions. I like to download my book on my Kindle. I have no idea why, but I catch more mistakes this way than printing it out or even reading it on my iPad or phone. Every time I read it, I catch either a double word or a mistake that I didn’t catch reading it on Scrivener. I make changes, save the file, and move the new file onto my Kindle and start over. I can tell when the changes work because you will be able to read through it without stopping and making the amount of changes you needed to when you first started.
Nothing, I repeat nothing is ever perfect. If you are looking for perfection in your writing, you would never release the book. As long as there aren’t any blaring spelling, formatting, grammatical, or plot errors, I would read it over until I was completely satisfied that I found everything that needed to be found before publishing it.
You can also look into beta reader groups who will read your work, but most beta readers will let you know if they don’t like something in your story or a character does something that isn’t part of their personality, but they will never point out a mistake in your spelling or catch a plot problem.
There are many writing groups online that will critique your work and give you advice on whether the plot works and point out grammatical errors. Most of the group are usually other writers, not editors, so they won’t usually read your manuscript thoroughly and pay attention to the details as your editor would do. They are a wonderful resource for advice on a weak plot point or if the characters are engaging, and many other issues, but I believe that you truly need an editor.
How To Find an Editor
There are many ways to find an editor in this day and age. There are internet searches, advice from your writing group, or if your lucky, have a friend who is a professional editor.
I went in a completely opposite way. I checked the acknowledgements in my favorite author’s books and searched for them online to see if they were accepting new clients.
No matter how you find one, before they accept you as a client, most editors will ask for a sample of your work, a chapter or two, to determine what kind of writer you are. If they reject you, don’t worry, there are plenty of editors out there that will work with you.
But one word of warning. Editing services are expensive. Most editors charge a set amount based on your word count and sometimes a 50,000 word manuscript can cost you $300 and up. But all writers need a editor. And I emphasize this point. You will find that the amount you pay is worth it in the end.
Whether you decide to self-edit, go through a critique group, or find a professional editor, there are many ways to clean up your manuscript for publication. The advice is based on my experience with independent publishing. No matter what you decide, I wish you the best in your writing journey!