Author Topic: self-editing: what does your process look like.  (Read 1307 times)

RiverRun

self-editing: what does your process look like.
« on: February 06, 2019, 04:06:54 AM »
Hi! First post here. I used to lurk occasionally on the 'other board', (I posted a little, but that was a few years ago.) This seems like a friendly place, though. On another thread, I was surprised to see how many of you are self-editing, as in, not using a professional editor before you publish.

About 5 years ago, I actually self-published two novels without any meaningful feedback from another reader. Just edited them myself and uploaded them. It was fun. I made all the usual newbie mistakes with blurbs and covers and didn't even know what genre was when I wrote them. So, not surprisingly, I did not become a bestseller. The reviews were pretty positive though. I didn't get any one stars for poor punctuation or incomprehensible prose or anything. So it appears I actually possess the skill to self-edit, to some degree. Then KU came and life got busy. I took down my third novel because I hadn't had as much time to polish it, plus could hardly give it away compared to pre-KU numbers. I determined that I would need a real editor to progress.

I decided my next book needed to be something different. So I read Chris Fox's book and landed on historical mystery as a genre to start over with. Three years later... I've finished the book and I am trying to get it into shape. But I still can't afford a professional editor. Unlike last time, however, I have read a lot of books in my genre, studied up on plot and structure, have a plan for a series, have a well-targeted cover, (I think). All that stuff. If I can find a way around the editing problem, I'm hopeful this book has a better future.

So, my actual question. If all the other stuff is in place, (cover, blurb, tropes, etc.) does the importance of line by line or developmental editing really go down? (Cause we're assuming, for the sake of argument, that I have the experience to catch most of the stupidly obvious things myself.)

And if you do self-edit your novels, do you mind sharing what you do? Beta readers, paid or free? How many? Do you do your own proofreading as well? What do you look for as signs that say, yes this is as good as I can make it?

Thank you.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

Eclectic Dan

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2019, 04:55:40 AM »
My first three books were professionally edited.  My editor works for a traditional publisher, so if she said it was good enough to publish, that was good enough for me.

I had intended for her to edit the fourth book as well.  But, after I finished it, it sat around for about a year while I tried to set aside money for editing.  After that year or so and no money set aside for editing, I opted to self-edit.  I also had, I think, three beta readers.  (All free.)  I don't remember.  I think only one actually finished reading the book.  She liked it better than my previous stuff.  The other never finished it.  I brought in a third beta reader as a tie-breaker, but he never finished reading it either.  So, mixed bag there.  I went ahead and published anyway.

The fifth book I planned on self-editing from the start.  I think I had three beta readers for it.  Different readers than the fourth book.  All free again.  They all finished it and they pointed out any errors they discovered.  One was quite good at catching mistakes that needed to be fixed.

I have two WIPs currently.  The first to be released will be self-edited.  I am hoping to get enough sales from it to be able to have the second one professionally edited again.

I tend to proofread as I go along and also proofread whenever I have to go back to look up something in a previous chapter.  Generally, though, it helps to set something aside for a while before you go back and proofread it or edit it.  You don't want it fresh in your mind because that's when you tend to overlook mistakes, because you'll see what you meant to write and not necessarily what you actually typed.  When the words are less fresh in your mind, you overlook those things less.  Also, it helps to read things backwards.  Like that last sentence, you'd read it starting with backwards, then things, then read and so on.  You'll catch more spelling errors that way, generally.  True, spell check catches a bunch, but it won't catch sour vs. soar and stuff like that.

Use beta readers if you can find them.  They can be very helpful.  They may find spelling or grammatical errors, which is great, but they are typically most helpful in determining whether the actual story is good and makes sense as well as what chapters or sections work or don't work and stuff like that.

The best option is to hire a professional editor, of course.  But, if you can't afford one, you can't afford one.  Sometimes, if you have extra money, you need to pay off a bill or something.  I remember when I could afford an editor, and I would be like, what do you mean you can't afford an editor?  If you want to be a professional writer, you need to find a way to set aside money to pay for a professional editor.  It's easy to say and do those things when you're in a position to do them.  Not so much when you're not.

Bottom line is that you just have to do the best you can.  And know your weaknesses.  My weakness is commas.  I never second-guessed my usage of commas.  Other things, sure, but not commas.  I always thought I knew how to use commas properly.  After having three books professionally edited, I learned that I do not.

Also, don't get old.  I never used to mix you're and your.  NEVER.  I know the difference.  How stupid do you have to be to not know the difference?  How little are you paying attention to what you're writing to not catch right away that you've used the wrong one?  Now, though, I find myself slipping up and using the wrong one.  It's very worrisome.  One could say humbling but, no, it's worrisome.  Is my brain turning to mush?  I always figured, you know, one day I might have poor eyesight, I might need a cane to walk or maybe a wheelchair, but I'll always be able to write stories, even if I have to hit one key at a time as I examine the keyboard with a magnifying glass.  But mixing up you're and your?  What next?  How long before I start typing stuff like gesul puffin zeeble bobinx laru and think it makes perfect sense at the time?

I hope this was helpful.  Probably not, but I started out this reply with good intentions.  :pdt
     
 
The following users thanked this post: PaulineMRoss, LilyBLily, VisitasKeat, MHodmann, Rosie Scott, Steve M

Shoe

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2019, 05:19:19 AM »


And if you do self-edit your novels, do you mind sharing what you do?


For now, I self-edit (Grammarly wanted that comma there).

As I'm writing, I begin each day reading what I wrote the day before. This continues until the "first draft" is complete. Once done, I put it aside for a few weeks or in many cases months.

During the second pass I do a lot of rewriting, correcting, etc., then put it aside for a couple more weeks.

During the third draft, I run each chapter through ProwritingAid, catch mistakes, get really annoyed with PWA's position on adverbs, then put it aside for a day or two before running the entire book through Natural's Soft (I think it's called) text-to-speech software. (I have a crush on the Brit woman's voice I selected for the read through, so I dress up for this stage.)

I then run the entire draft through PWA once more to see if corrections made during the text-to-speech stage produced any errors. This goes very quickly.

Then up it goes to KDP.
Publishing since May 2017. Writing full time since January 2018 general fiction and satire.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat, OfficialEthanJ

elleoco

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2019, 06:11:25 AM »
I use beta readers in place of what would, I suppose, be developmental editors. What I ask from them is feedback on the story and characters. I specifically tell them not to waste time on things like grammar, typos, and punctuation because revisions based on their feedback may mean wiping out or rewriting whole sections of the story.

However, beta readers are really difficult, first to find, and then to keep. Hard to find good ones who give the kind of feedback you can use and hard to keep them for more than a few books because mine quickly became fans and partisans, less inclined to fault anything. The ideal for me would be five. My belief is if one person says something you don't much agree with, you ignore them. If two say it, you consider it but don't necessarily take the advice. If three or more hit on the same thing, you need to change it. And those three don't have to all say the same thing about a character or story element. If three out of five hit on the same thing, there's something about it that needs work.

After that I do the rest of the editing myself. I'm one of those who revises as she goes, so I end up with a pretty clean first draft, which is probably more the equivalent of a third draft for those who write straight through without looking back. When revisions caused by betas are done, I put it on my Kindle and read it there, print it and read it out loud, and finally read a printed copy backward paragraph by paragraph for proofing.

munboy

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2019, 07:13:16 AM »
I self edit to the point of almost ready to release, then I pay to have somebody line edit for me to make sure there's nothing weird going on in the words and punctuation. For some reason, I can't do this type of editing on my own work. I can line edit the crap out of other people's writing, but I miss things in my own.

As for the self editing I do, I fly through the first draft as fast as possible.

First pass - I look for any inconsistencies in characters and plot. As part of this, I add or delete spots to help with the tone and characterization and make sure the flow of the story is good. Sometimes I cut parts out or add stuff in, depending on what I want to accomplish.

Second pass - I read through, looking for places where the prose can be improved.

At this point, I send it off to my line editor.

Third pass - I read through one final time, checking what my line editor did and doing one last, quick inspection for spots I might have missed in the first and second pass.

At that point, I'm usually happy with the finished product and can start the formatting process.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

GeneDoucette

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2019, 07:45:24 AM »


There are different kinds of edits.

There's a content editor, who makes structural or plot recommendations. I learned a long time ago that I don't need this. I'll adjust the plot and structure myself on a second pass, after the first draft.

There's the kind of edit where flow, and word-choice (and word repetition) is hit with a stick. I spend more time on this than on anything else in the edits. It's the "this is awkward, there must be a better way to say it" draft.

Then, there's the typographical edit, looking for errors of the most basic kind: spelling, extra words, missing quotation marks and so on. I write very clean drafts, which is to say I don't tend to make punctuation errors or spelling errors. (Or, more commonly in the age of spellcheck: the 'misspelling that results in a word that is actually a word, just the wrong one.) My largest problem is the extra word, which happens when I edit a sentence and don't delete all the words that should have been deleted to make the sentence work.

I do all of these myself. I have paid an editor to do the typographical edit, but have found that even when I do this, stuff sneaks through, which is frustrating but inevitable. I don't think it's worth paying someone to go from seven typographical errors in a 100,000 word manuscript, to two typographical errors.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

LD

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2019, 11:04:14 AM »
I use alphas for the developmental edits.  I use betas for final readability.  I write using correct SPoG, or at least try to, so it's not a big mess and I only need to tighten wording choice by the end.  For proofing, I use different formats to read the manuscripts.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

Kyra Halland

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #7 on: February 06, 2019, 12:27:13 PM »
I self-edit too; lack of money for editors plus my work schedule is so erratic due to chronic fatigue syndrome I can't imagine trying to stay on schedule with someone else.

Once the first draft is written, I print it out and read through, making notes of problems I find (I number the notes in a notebook and put the page #, then on the manuscript page I put the note #). I go all the way through the manuscript doing this before starting to mark up the manuscript, so if I find things later that changes something earlier in the book, I just make a note of it instead of having to go back and change something I already revised once. At the same time, I make a notecard for each scene, with a sentence describing what happens in the scene along the the scene's purpose, main conflict, and change. This helps me spot a lot of structural problems. I've also started filling out a Story Grid spreadsheet at this stage, which also helps me spot structural problems.

ETA: Forgot this part:

After I have all my notes and everything and decide if I need to add/move/delete scenes and what other major changes I need to make, I make a new set of scene cards with the major changes I want to make for each scene, using 4x6 inch cards for this, or even type it out with one page per scene, depending on how many changes the book needs. This helps me keep track of the big picture for the revision.

Once I've done all this analysis, I do a huge revision, then send it out to the beta readers. Then I do a second revision using their feedback and any other issues I've thought of in the meantime. After that, I do a pass or two to fine-tune action and dialogue, deepen characterization, fill in details of setting, stuff like that. Then a pass of line editing and one of copy-editing, then a couple of proofreads. I print out each draft, and in the later stages, I print using different fonts. I also do one of the proofreads by reading on my Kindle.

It takes a while, especially at the speed I'm able to work, but it's the option that's open to me and I actually enjoy it more than writing the first draft (I like editing my own work, but hate editing other people's work). I've had very few reviews that mention any kind of editing issues; I've had at least as many that compliment the editing. So it seems to work.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2019, 03:57:11 PM by Kyra Halland »


Strong women, honorable men, worlds of magic

Kyra Halland | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Genres: Epic Romantic Fantasy; Western Fantasy
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

RiverRun

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2019, 02:34:17 PM »
Thank you all for your replies. Its helpful to have some different options to consider.

I use alphas for the developmental edits.  I use betas for final readability.  I write using correct SPoG, or at least try to, so it's not a big mess and I only need to tighten wording choice by the end.  For proofing, I use different formats to read the manuscripts.

Out of curiosity, what is SPoG? A google search turned up salt/pepper/onion/garlic but I'm thinking that's not what you meant.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

RiverRun

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #9 on: February 06, 2019, 02:44:12 PM »
I self-edit too; lack of money for editors plus my work schedule is so erratic due to chronic fatigue syndrome I can't imagine trying to stay on schedule with someone else.

 I've also started filling out a Story Grid spreadsheet at this stage, which also helps me spot structural problems.



Kyra, I admire your work ethic to write so many novels in spite of poor health.

I'm curious about Story Grid. There's a book about that, isn't there? I'm going to go look it up, but I'm curious about how it all works out in practice.

I'm a compulsive re-writer and constantly edit as I go. So I never really know what draft I'm on.

Right now I'm leaning towards at least one paid beta reader, since none of my friends or family seem to be willing or able to provide meaningful feedback.
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

L_Loryn

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2019, 03:27:33 PM »
And if you do self-edit your novels, do you mind sharing what you do? Beta readers, paid or free? How many? Do you do your own proofreading as well? What do you look for as signs that say, yes this is as good as I can make it?


I self-edit, then I have a close friend/editor read through and do a line edit (more or less because she likes to), and then I have beta readers. I think beta readers are supposed to come before the editor, but that seems weird to me so I don't do it that way.

My process is:
  • Write the book as fast as I can. Like, cranking out 3-4k a day on the weekdays 1-2k a day on the weekends until the book is finished.
  • Let the book rest for 3-4 weeks. Usually during this time, I'll write some short stories or take a break from writing altogether. Depends on if I'm writing a standalone or series.
  • Read through my novel. I do line edits, suggestions, beefing up descriptions, proofreading. All of it. The main reason I do this is because I am trying to get better with my descriptive language. In my writing process, I may use the same eight descriptions as place-holders for other actions. When I do my self-edit, I change these things, check for the repetition, think of new and better descriptions. I use an app called Markup on my ipad with an apple pencil. Then I go back and enter the changes in my document later. So it's kind of like a double edit.
  • My editor/writer friend takes a stab at it. She likes to line edit, so that's what she does. She'll point out any and everything from wonky sentences, to dropped plot points, to timeline problems. She's also crazy good at finding typos.
  • Last are the beta readers. I won't give them my manuscript any sooner because I'm a perfectionist. It would bother me too much to have not gone over it first.

How do I know it is as good as I can make it? I know the bare bones are good if I start reading and there are pages without any mistakes. This means I'm too invested in reading to find the mistakes (this is why I have an editor).

When I finish my self-edit, I know at that point it is as good as I can make it at my current capacity. I know that given another month rest, I'm sure I could make it better, but at some point you're going from 85% to 88% and it's not necessarily worth the extra time to do it (that's just an example).

Unrelated, but part of my self-edit is playing a game with myself after I finish writing. Once I'm in my rest period, I start logging my favorite "words of the day", and I mull over ways to use them in my novel. It's probably super unnecessary, but it makes me excited about improving my novel and my vocabulary by extension. I don't know how others are, but while I have a pretty extensive vocabulary, it doesn't always show in my "first draft".
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

Kyra Halland

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2019, 03:46:09 PM »
I self-edit too; lack of money for editors plus my work schedule is so erratic due to chronic fatigue syndrome I can't imagine trying to stay on schedule with someone else.

 I've also started filling out a Story Grid spreadsheet at this stage, which also helps me spot structural problems.



Kyra, I admire your work ethic to write so many novels in spite of poor health.

I'm curious about Story Grid. There's a book about that, isn't there? I'm going to go look it up, but I'm curious about how it all works out in practice.

I'm a compulsive re-writer and constantly edit as I go. So I never really know what draft I'm on.

Right now I'm leaning towards at least one paid beta reader, since none of my friends or family seem to be willing or able to provide meaningful feedback.

I write the books I want to read, so it's fun, even though it's hard.  Grin

Here's the link to the Story Grid site: https://storygrid.com/

Pretty much everything that's in the book is also available for free on the site, but I recommend getting the book if you decide you really want to try it, for ease of reference. The method meshes well with my analysis phase of revision, since I'm sorting out my scenes and making all those notes anyway. The spreadsheet and grid are excellent for finding structural problems in a book, and the "foolscap" outline also a good basic method for outlining a book.

I also have a hard time getting beta readers who give meaningful, helpful feedback. I always end up finding more stuff that needs fixed myself than my beta readers do. I'd love to use a paid beta reader if I can save up the money; I write in a niche genre and I've had trouble finding my audience, so right now I'm just managing to cover my expenses.


Strong women, honorable men, worlds of magic

Kyra Halland | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Genres: Epic Romantic Fantasy; Western Fantasy
 
The following users thanked this post: VisitasKeat

VanessaC

Re: self-editing: what does your process look like.
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2019, 07:36:45 PM »
Fascinating to see other people's processes.  Like others, at the moment I don't have funds for an editor, though definitely would like to in future.

For my first books I used paid beta readers, and that was incredibly helpful - would highly recommend.  Also had a dialogue edit, which was much more affordable than a full copy edit, and really helpful for me as dialogue punctuation was definitely a weak spot for me.

My "process" is evolving as I go, but this is what I'm working with just now (for book 5).

For me, "editing" happens all the way through - I plot / outline to start with, but inevitably realise about 1/3 of the way into the story that the beginning needs to be re-ordered or re-written, and I do that then before I move on, because it's easier.  I make notes as I go - I have a physical notebook next to my laptop, and also use the document notes in Scrivener.  If I come across major issues when doing the first draft, I will also fix them here, rather than waiting.

The next stage is going through the notes I've made, and then the notes I make on the notes ...

Once this is done, I'm finding that my draft is in pretty good shape.  I might do a final pass (if there are more notes or something isn't working), but then it's a read through (side-load onto my kindle). I find it's really helpful to read the draft in a different format.  I use the notes / highlight function on the kindle to flag up issues.

Then tidy up after the read through. (This is the stage I'm at just now with book 5, and this involves text adjustment, adding in at least two more scenes, adding more action and depth to the ending, and making sure loose ends are tidied up.)

Final stages: I prefer (if I have time) to read the whole thing aloud - this lets me catch awkward sentences, poor choice of phrasing, the fact I've used the same word seven times in one paragraph ... The read aloud is very time consuming, but helpful. 

Last thing is run through with Grammarly to catch any spelling errors, duplicate words, repetition, etc, that I may have missed and making some formatting adjustments (e.g. I always use two blank spaces after a full stop when I'm typing, and do a find and replace to take these out before formatting.)

I hope some of this is helpful.