Writing a book is tiresome, grueling work, full of revising, rewriting, and, sometimes, redoing completely. To write a book is no small feat: it takes constant patience, dedication, and passion. It can take weeks, months, or even years to finish your book. And once you’ve written that last sentence—once you’ve placed that long-awaited “The End” at the bottom of the page—your work has really just begun. Now it’s time to edit! If you’re a self-published author, more likely than not you are your own editor, and editing is crucial to the publishing process. No one can skip it. Your credibility as an author rests upon your ability to self-edit and to ask others to proof your work. If you write a story that is so good, so capturing, yet it is full of typos and punctuation errors, you completely nullify all of your hard work. You owe it to your work to take the time to edit it properly and completely. The editing process isn’t half as fun as the actual writing, but it’s equally as important. In order to edit your manuscript properly, ensuring a smooth transition into publication and reception, be sure to avoid these three key mistakes.
1. Not cutting what needs to be cut.
William Faulkner once said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” Now, who are we to ignore the sage advice of the genius who wrote As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and more? What Faulkner is telling us to do is not something easily done: cut what needs to be cut, even if it’s something you’re quite proud or something you love. As writers, we can often be blinded by our proximity to the story. If a piece of dialogue, a scenario, or a character doesn’t advance or fit cleanly into the story line, even if you love it, even if you spent all night writing it, you must edit it out for the sake of the story. You must kill your darlings.
2. Not getting a second opinion. Or a third. Or a fourth.
Until this point, you have probably been the only person to read manuscript. This means you’re entirely too close to the project. You’ve stared at these words for ages, trying to make them into a viable and gripping story. And even though you know this manuscript inside and out, that isn’t necessarily the best bias to take into the editing process. It is pertinent that you get a second set of eyes—or a third, or a fourth, just to be safe—to edit and proofread your work. You’d be surprised how many errors could be hiding within your work, gone unseen by you. If you’re lucky enough to be part of a community of writers, have them workshop your manuscript. If not, having just one person read through and edit it can mean the difference between a bestseller and a flop.
3. Not admitting when a manuscript isn’t ready for publishing.
Like killing your darlings, it can be difficult—even downright impossible—to admit when your work isn’t ready. Being a writer requires an inhuman amount of patience. That being said, be patient with your manuscript. Sometimes, even if you think it’s ready for publication, it might not be, and that’s all right! Just because your work isn’t ready for printing right now doesn’t mean it won’t ever be ready. Knowing when to take a step back and give your work time to grow is key to being a good writer. It’s better to wait than to publish an immature manuscript.
In the end, it is still your story. That means if you receive edits from someone that you don’t necessarily agree with or like, you don’t have to implement them. However, you could receive edits that you hadn’t even thought of that make the story better. Much can be revealed about a story in the editing process. You owe it to your story to ensure it gets the edits it deserves.