Thursday, March 7, 2013

Magic Thursday: Editing Tips for Indie and Traditional Hopefuls Alike

by CM Simpson


Bio: C.M. Simpson has been writing for as long as she can remember, but writing with an eye for publication since at least 1991. She has been a submissions editor for Aurealis magazine, a copy editor for the now defunct Dark Eden Press and the still-living Lyrical Press for three years, and edited for roleplaying companies for almost 10 years. She is also the author of two published dark fantasy novels, one full-length romance, over 20 short stories and poems of varying genres, and four anthologies. She can be found at: http://cmsimpson.blogspot.com.au/. Here are some of the things she has learned about editing along the way.



So… one of the things high on the list of things Indie authors have to get right is editing. Given that editing your own work has been described as ‘trying to do emergency surgery on yourself’, how does an Indie go about it? And do any of the techniques below have any relevance for those submitting work to traditional publishers?

I’ll answer the second question first: YES. Why? Because any author submitting their work to a publisher, editor or agent needs to submit their work in the best condition they can manage. Editing your work prior to submission is something every writer should do, whether they are submitting their work to someone else, or uploading it to a distribution platform.

As with publishing, there are no longer any right, or wrong, ways to go about editing… unless, of course, you decide not to do any. That would definitely fall into the ‘wrong’ category. As an independent author, you owe your readers the respect of editing your work to the best of your ability, and as a traditional author, you owe the editors, agents and publishers you expect to work with the respect of editing your work to the best of your ability.

So: Editing Tips. You can incorporate any or all of these into your work process. These are what work for me:

1. Make editing part of your daily writing process. Reading over the previous chapter and any work on your current chapter enables you to pick up the threads of the story and reduces the chances of continuity errors in your work. This is a light edit or read over. It should be no more than ten or twenty minutes, though, or you could get sidetracked into an editing session you don’t need to do yet.


2. When you finish your first draft ‘nuke’ your manuscript and reformat it. This will give you a clean manuscript to work with. ‘Nuking’ consists of:

a. Use the ‘Find and replace’ function in Word to Find <space><space> (not literally, you know, all the places you hit the space bar twice. Replace ‘<space><space>’ with ‘<space>’.

b. Repeat that step until the number of replacements reaches ‘0’.

c. Use the ‘Find and replace’ function to Find ‘<space>^p’ (and again I’ve typed <space> instead of just hitting the space bar; otherwise you won’t see it). Replace ‘<space>^p’ with ‘^p’.

d. Repeat that step until the number of replacements reaches ‘0’.

e. Use the ‘Find and replace’ function to Find ‘^t’ and replace it with nothing (as in don’t put anything at all in the Replace box)

f. Once that’s done, use ‘CtrlA’ to select your entire manuscript and do the following:
i. Copy the entire manuscript, and then Paste it into a blank Notepad document
ii. Copy the entire Notepad manuscript and Paste it into a fresh Word document.
iii. Change the font to ‘Times New Roman’ OR ‘Arial’ or a similarly easy-to-read font.
iv. Change the font size to 12.

v. In the ‘paragraph’ box make sure the alignment is ‘Left’

vi. In the ‘paragraph’ box, under ‘Indentation’ make sure you select ‘First line’ in the ‘Special’ box and ‘0.2’ (if working in inches) in the ‘By’ box.

vii. Go through the manuscript and use the Insert function to put in chapter breaks

viii. Format chapter headings and scene breaks

ix. You now have a clean document to work with.


3. If you are independently publishing it, add your title page, dedication page, Table of Contents, acknowledgements and Author Page in as complete a form as possible. If you are submitting it, go to the formatting guidelines, and make sure you have formatted the document as required.


4. Once the formatting is done, go through the document, line by line, reading each sentence for meaning, and looking for spelling and grammatical errors. Keep an eye out for story inconsistencies, also.


5. When you finish your first pass, leave it for a week, and then repeat Step 4.


6. Once you are happy with the story, give it to your beta reader or readers, and have them go through it, or submit it to a professional editor to check. I prefer to do this one reader or editor at a time, if I can. That way I’m only working with one manuscript version at a time. DO NOT WORK ON YOUR MANUSCRIPT while you wait for the beta reader or editor feedback, as this can lead to multiple versions being out there, and can create problems in tracking what stage you’re at, or what version you’re working with. Work on something else. This gives you a clean mental break, which will help you establish a detachment to your work when you make your final pass.


7. Once you have incorporated the beta reader suggestions and edits, go over your work once more.


8. Repeat Steps 2-3.


At this point, your work is probably as edited as it’s going to get. 

Stop

Take a breath. 

Check your format is right for submission, or for uploading to whichever platform you prefer. 

And good luck *grin*. 



~~~
Thanks, C.M.


1 comment:

  1. Oops, forgot one vital step:

    BEFORE YOU NUKE, make sure you identify where any italicised text starts and stops. I do this by using 'QQ' at the beginning and end of the italics sections. Notepad will remove all formatting. Unless you mark your italicised sections, you will lose them, and they can be very hard to put back in.

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