I often see blog posts and tweets promoting good editing techniques, however a lot of these require money. As a hobbyist write, I want to make my work the best it can be but not by spending a lot. My main job is being a teacher, I am also a husband and father. Writing, though important, sometimes needs to take a back seat. With plenty of things that need money spent on them (food, days out, car, house etc.) I try not to spend money on my hobby when I can do a lot of the work for free. So, to those people in my situation, and any others that want to listen, here is how I edit. Is it a foolproof plan to success and great final drafts? Not by any means, it just makes me feel like my work is the best I can do on my own. Anyway, on with the show…
- Once I have written my first draft I have a read through on-screen, this is basically to see if there are any plot holes or issues I need to address. Sometimes this may be moving chapters/sections around. I generally find I do not have too many issues; as I do not get to write a lot I spend a lot of time thinking about the story, asking questions like, what would the character do in that situation? How can I get the story from a to b without missing key details? What would x look like in that situation? I also plan a lot before writing so have already done a lot of the world building and mapped out major plot points, although the bits in-between can change a lot. Therefore, this part of the editing process often does not require many changes, either that or I am rubbish at seeing plot holes!
- I read through a second time, this time looking for grammar and spelling issues. I can often fix many but a lot slip though the net. Writers are notoriously grammar blind, they read what they wanted in their head and skim over the fact the comma is missing, they have spelt the word incorrectly or have forgotten ed or s at the end of the word. That is where step three comes in…
- Now this is the only place in the whole writing space where I have spent money, and it is not even my hard-earned money! No, every year I get asked what I want for my birthday and every year (well the last two), I have asked for money to renew my subscription to Pro Writing Aid. This year I got enough birthday cash to do a two-year licence so will be able to spend my birthday money on more tat next year! It is only about £30 for a years license. Pro Writing Aid is a program you can download or add as an extension to other word processing programs. You can definitely get it for Microsoft Word but I use it with Google Docs. You can run a range of reports then go through the results to edit your manuscript. Where there is an error, it highlights and you get a choice to ignore or make one of a list of possible changes. There are lots of reports but I tend to look at writing style, grammar, overused words (I never knew how much I use the word was until I got Pro Writing Aid!) and consistency. It can take ages to run a report on a whole manuscript, and then you need to go through every change which takes many hours. I always copy sections of about one A4 page into a different document and run the reports on those then copy them back when done. A simple bit of changing text colours shows me what I have run through Pro Writing Aid, what I am working on and what I have yet to do. I suppose I should say, to be balanced, that there are other editing programs out there, I just really like Pro Writing Aid.
- The next step is the print read through, I often find that I spot different errors when I read my work on paper. I, therefore, arm myself with highlights and a pen and go through a page at a time. It is generally commas that I have missed. I then update my online manuscript as I go so I know that once done I can get into formatting.
- The final step is to get some beta readers, so far I only have one, but that is better than nothing! They read through, give you comments and point out potential mistakes. Once they are done with it I can format the book and get it out there.
What am I missing?
There are only really two steps that I think would make my editing process even better. There are…
- Paying a professional editor – These are rather expensive and I would never see any return on my investment due to not spending money on marketing. I would really have to go for it, moving from a hobbyist to telling myself I am an actual author and throwing my weight behind my claim. I am not confident enough in myself and do not want to bankrupt my family, so am not going down this route. If a publisher came along and offered me a deal then I would happily get a professional editor; I can dream!
- A critique partner/partners – This would be great, to have someone to look at my work and give me advice. The two problems here are that I do not have lots of time to meet up but, worse than that, I do not think I have the time to read other people’s work in a critical capacity, therefore would be letting them down. I have not searched for a critique partner but have thought about it. If someone approached me then I would give it a go, but for now I am happy to just say I wrote a book! Also no-one is telling me my story is rubbish, which it probably is!
Where am I with editing current projects?
Before the two projects I am currently working on, I did not have Pro Writing Aid. Also previous work I have done is either short stories or collections, so I basically read through them twice and looked for errors. Needless to say, there are still errors in the books! Of they two projects I am on, my novella, ‘A Close Shave with Destiny,’ is almost ready to go. I jumped the boat, getting over excited by people seeing my work, so have already sent it to my beta reader who got back to me. This was before I had even used Pro Writing Aid. Therefore, I am doing my final print check then it will be released. My other project, ‘The Fifth Coin,’ has been read through twice and is sitting waiting till I release ‘A Close Shave with Destiny.’ I will then run it through Pro Writing Aid, do a print read and get some beta readers. An interesting development is that I won a competition for a query letter edit so I may have a good query letter for ‘The Fifth Coin.’ I may actually submit it to publishers! As you can expect, working full-time and having a young family, it takes me ages to edit. I am also writing a serial, ‘Islands of Hope,’ which I update every week on wattpad. This is to show that I am releasing work. Here I read through the section twice and run through Pro Writing Aid. As updates are anywhere from two hundred to a thousand words it does not take long, a sort of editing as you go type affair.
Anyway, there we are. That is how I edit, whilst trying to spend as little money as possible. I hope reading this blog post helps you with your editing. If you have any questions or advice then please do contact me. Cheers!
I usually weigh up the amount of time I have and the key ideas I have for a story then decide I can complete NaNoWriMo, even if it means neglecting my family. However this year I have decided to be a bit more pragmatic. I will not being taking part in NaNoWriMo, but not due to time available or lack of ideas. I have come to realise that I cannot keep starting new projects and leave myself with a pile of unfinished and unedited work. This year, instead of starting a new novel, I will be passing ‘A Close Shave with Destiny’ through ProWritingAid as my final piece of editing for the novella. That should mean that I can get it realised for Christmas or just after. Unfortunately it will not be beta read as my beta readers all lead busy lives and have not managed to have a look at the book. At least, though, it should be one project I can tick off. I will still be writing ‘Islands of Hope’ so expect weekly updates to continue. All in all then, although I am not competing in NaNoWriMo this year, something good will come out of it.
I really am fed up of editing, at the moment I check my stories myself at least twice, run them through Pro Writing Aid and sometimes get beta readers. That means it takes a long time to get anything ready. As I am a hobbyist writer I cannot afford an editor so it is up to me to do the best I can. I really just want to release my work. To alleviate this frustration I have started a new project entitled ‘Islands of Hope.’ I have had a brief idea for a story in my head for some time but have ignored it due to all my other projects. I am determined to stop flitting from one story to the next and actually get one finished!
Talking to a friend recently I had a great idea, why not release a book as a serial. If I commit to adding to it each week I can edit as I go. It is also exciting because in the world of writing I am a planster but I am going to approach this project as a pantster and just see where it goes. I am not going to give a specific amount I will upload each week just that I will put something up. Using wattpad will allow me to do this and I will notify everyone via twitter, Facebook and on this blog.
So before I go further I suppose I should give you a brief synopsis…
The year is 2145 and the Earth is largely controlled by Princips Ltd who have monopolised by slowly buying up different companies. The rich now live in mega cities whilst the poor dwell in slums. Countries have been reassigned as numbers and there are only a few independent states left. The one thing you do not do is cross Princips Ltd, break the law and you can be jailed or even killed. When Kira steals some bread for her starving mother she is caught and put up for slavery. Her new master is known for being brutal but reputations are not always what they seem, especially when you are taken to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, a far cry from the deprivation of the slums or bright lights of the city.
So there it is, not particularly original but should be a lot of fun. The first chapter is now up on wattpad and I will be updating something (maybe a whole chapter, maybe just a paragraph or two) every Saturday. You will also notice there is no cover, haven’t got around to that yet but it will come.
My only real concern about the project is that it will distract from my other writing and getting a full novel released with take even longer. Oh well, at least it will appease me for a bit. Keep checking back on Saturdays for updates. Oh yeah, you can read it by going here.