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The Edit: Transform Your Story From a Manuscript Into a Book

So, you’ve written your book… now what? As writers, when we dive into writing our book, of course we know we’ll need to go through editing, publishing, and promotion, but until we get there, we don’t know what we’re in for. Understanding the editing process as an author is important whether you’re self-publishing, hybrid publishing, or getting your book traditionally published. Here’s a rundown of the editing process we advise to all our authors (it’s tried and true, and learned from real-life author experiences and industry standards!). 

First, you’ll start with self-editing. 

Your goal in this phase is to elevate your manuscript before sending it through the rest of the editing process. You want to consider your theme, plot, characters, chapters, dialogue, and perspectiveMake sure you read your manuscript as your reader, not as the writer, and read it on different devices: your computer, kindle or tablet, or printed (if you want!). We also recommend using software to aid you, and have recommendations and more tips on what to look out for in your manuscript in our Soulful Self-Publishing Guide course and workbook. 

Then, move on to professional editing. 

There are different types of professional editing, and we recommend you follow them in this order: 

  1. Developmental Editing: Considering the organization and strength of the book overall, from pacing to flow to consistency, characters, plots, dialogue, and potential holes.
  2. Copyediting: Revising written material to improve readability and fitness.
  3. Line Editing: Reviewing word choice and the power and meaning of each sentence.
  4. Proofreading: Evaluating for mechanical correctness, such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, omitted words, repeated words, spacing and format, and typographical errors. 
  5. Fact Checking: Verifying factual information, in order to promote the veracity and correctness of data or statements. This is a critical step for nonfiction books, but not always for memoirs.

It’s important to find an editor who is good, thorough, understands your genre and sees your vision for the book. 

Next, consider beta readers. 

Beta readers provide valuable feedback to your story before it’s published. They should be used after your book has gone through the self-edit process and the developmental edit should you choose to pursue it. Copy editing, line editing, and proofreading come after beta reader feedback, because you may incorporate more or eliminate pieces of your manuscript based on their comments and reading experience. 

Beta readers are meant to strengthen your manuscript, the first eyes that are reading it as a reader and not as a writer (two completely different perspectives). They can provide insight into plot holes, strange character motivations, incomplete arcs, or even simple dissatisfaction in the story.

Make sure to choose your beta readers wisely, meaning they are readers of your genre, comfortable with providing criticism, can read your story and provide feedback within the deadline you set, and make you aware of specific feedback you’re looking for, such as plot holes, character, motivations, incomplete arcs, dissatisfaction, etc. 

Last, prepare for publishing!

When you take the time to go through your editing process thoroughly, you can rest assured your book is the most polished form it can be, and your readers will be able to focus on your message. They won’t wonder “I don’t understand what the author means by that,” or get distracted by typos, interrupting their reading experience. Better yet, you’ll be publishing a book you feel so proud of, knowing your reader will walk away from your book with the impact you intend. 

This is just an overview of the editing steps. In our Soulful Self-Publishing Guide, we dive deeper into self-editing software and tips, give you insights on how to find and work with your editor, and provide a beta reader form and strategy, so you can be equipped with all the tools you need to get the editing process right the first time. 

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