When I was in high school and college, writing was something I excelled at. In my 201 Creative Writing class, we had to write a 15-page report about the book THE HEART OF DARKNESS, which was and is, one of the most confusing books I've ever read. I got an A on that paper, though I can't tell you how or why, or even what I wrote. It's all a blur to me. My point, is that I did all my own editing, proofreading, etc. and I thought I was pretty decent at it. So when I wrote ONE MORE LAST CHANCE on the frayed edges of a shoestring budget, with no money to hire an editor, I thought, "no worries, I can edit my own work."
Again, young and naive.
I used people in my network (friends and family) who offered to proofread, but if there's one thing I can say, it's this - a good editor is worth every penny you'll pay. Reading your own work over and over and over again feels something like this:
Wow! This is a great story
I need to tweak these couple of things
Why do I use (insert word) so much?
This story sucks
I hate it. I am shit at this
It's not so bad
I love and hate this story
(see your work published) This is the best thing ever!
Developing a love/hate relationship with your work, with your creativity, is an interesting phenomenon. On the one hand, you start to think that maybe you should just throw it all away and stick to your day job, because your writing is crap. On the other hand, you think you've invested so much time and energy, blood, sweat, and tears, that you MUST put it out, or risk hating yourself forever. For my next work, hiring an editor is high on my priorities list, but until then, here are a few things I learned about editing my own work.
- Do the big/easy things first - use the spelling and grammar check to comb your document for quick fixes. If you can do this before sending portions to your beta readers, it will make their work (and yours in the end) that much easier.
- Make a list as you read - quick fixes can be done immediately, but if there are bigger items, like plot points that need to be adjusted or fact checking that needs to be done, write those down to circle back to later.
- Take some time off - once you've combed through your manuscript at least once (I recommend printing a copy as it is easier to go through it line-by-line), take a couple of days and put it away - don't look at it, don't peek at it, don't talk about it! Coming back to it with fresh eyes will enable you to catch things you missed the first time.
- Once you've published - order a hard copy for yourself. With Amazon, you can fix mistakes in your manuscript and re-upload it with a fast turn-around. It was so hard for me to read my whole book through in print! Every mistake I found was an "UGH!" moment, but doing that allowed me to revise and re-upload my book with much-needed fixes that I missed in all that initial manuscript reading. It is absolutely true that reading your book in print lends to seeing things that you may have missed previously.
- Most of all, if you've written a story in its entirety and published it, be proud of that. It's a big accomplishment! If you enjoy writing, then do whatever you need to do to keep it enjoyable. Is it hard sometimes? Yes! Is it likely that you'll question yourself and your creative process along the way? YES! Will you sometimes hate writing, hate your computer, hate everything remotely related to your book? Yes. But all this is worth it in the end.
Be encouraged, have fun, stay curious,