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Why Self-Edits are Important

posted in: Writing Craft | 14

Good morning everyone!

CP Bialois
CP Bialois

As authors, our minds, days, and lives are often filled to the brim with a million different things from our daily lives that we push through and beat back to another day. Then comes our writing. For most of us, being a full-time writer is the dream, but until then we have to toil away with our regular jobs on top of our budding enterprise.

Let’s be honest, finishing writing and having our books published are among the biggest thrills we can experience. Along the way we’ve studied books and articles on how to write, had our manuscripts shredded by critique groups, and pummeled out any plot holes our beta readers pointed out to us before sending it to our editors. Unfortunately, there’s a step we missed.

Self-editing.

As strange as it sounds, this is one of the most important steps. It’s been my experience that as much as beta readers and critique groups help, it’s up to us to read through it a couple of times to six as many mistakes as we can. From an editor’s point of view, the biggest reasons are simply to help and save our editor’s sanity.

Let me explain.

One of the phrases I can’t stand (I still use it at times, so go figure. Lol) is, “That’s why we pay editors.”

To me, that’s not entirely accurate. Editors are an important step in making our stories the best they can be, but they’re still human. If we send them a manuscript that’s riddled with errors from typos to capitalized words like This in the middle of sentences and other issues that aren’t as visible, we’re asking them to perform a great feat.

By going through our manuscripts and getting them as tight as possible, we can limit the time and effort our editors have to put into our work. Simply put, the sloppier work we hand them, the more they can miss and the more strain we put on them. I look at it like they’re bailing water out of a boat with a three foot hole in the side. No matter how hard they work, more water keeps coming in and they’ll never get it all.

WokinghamLibraries / Pixabay

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we should expect to catch everything. That’s impossible, especially considering how close we are to the project, but if we don’t put in the effort we’re only hurting ourselves in time and cost for the editors. One thing I like to tell people is to at least, please, run a spell and grammar check. If nothing else, it’ll usually catch hte and thst. At least, I hope so. If not, it may be time for an upgrade, if possible.

One thing to keep in mind is to try and stay as neutral when going through our books as possible and look at it as though we’re the reader. It’s not easy, but reading out loud is a great way to find the tongue twisters and odd phrases that sound great in our minds. Honestly, I can’t even count how many times I’ve tripped myself up and called myself all sorts of fun names. Lol

One of the most important things to remember is to be honest with ourselves and do the best we can. Despite how many claim otherwise, there are, and will never be, a perfectly edited book. People will always find fault, but as long as we’ve put in our best efforts we can hold our heads high and continue moving forward and learn. Why make it harder on ourselves and beat ourselves up?

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Any tips or tricks you’d like to share?

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14 Responses

  1. Tricia Pimental
    | Reply

    It is frustrating to find an error when all has been done as it should have: beta readers, self-editing, professional editing, and more self-editing after the professional one, based on suggested changes. Print it out, so you can catch typos on the printed page as opposed to a computer screen. And still something jumps out on a page when the book is printed. I know you made a lot of us feel better with your comment about no perfectly edited book.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Thanks for mentioning printing out the manuscript. I totally forgot about that. lol I know that helps my wife and I to edit.

      It’s definitley frustrating that we continue finding mistake. I went through my first book ten times and actually did more damage than help. Because of that I’ve settled on a hard three read throughs.

      Glad to help. 🙂 I’ve taken a lot of heat for saying no book is perfect, but it’s the truth. I have yet to read a book, traditionally pubished or not, that doesn’t have mistakes. I’ve noticed that traditional and Indie share the same mistakes going back at least twenty years, yet traditional gets a pass. Go figure. lol.

  2. Jon Guenther
    | Reply

    There’s a tendency for many of us to attain “perfection” in the editing process. It’s always easier to make that expectation of someone else (e.g., the aforementioned editors). While there’s something to be said for the merits of a professional edit, I didn’t become a writer by writing but by learning how to rewrite. If we are not self-editing it’s the mark that we’re too lazy or inattentive about our own work. The consequence of NOT self-editing is we don’t get any better. Naturally. Editing is a practical and cognitive learning exercise. If we do it, we are learning how to become BETTER writers.

    Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the years to make my writing better:

    1. Write short, declarative sentences.
    2. Use active language (avoid “was” and passive verbs)
    3. Eliminate unnecessary words that obfuscate clarity (“that” is one of the most overused)
    4. Read it aloud or record/playback
    5. Consider a book like Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Browne/King – http://amzn.to/1V6DPW5 or Revision and Self-Editing by James Scott Bell – http://amzn.to/21reHsU

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Agreed. Rewriting is definitely a vital part of what we do, and I’ve talked with a few that look at it as a nuisance. What can we do? It’s a necessary evil for us to put out the best work we can.

      Some excellent tips and links. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. Linda Hostler
    | Reply

    Florida Writers Association

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    14
    MAR 2016
    Home » Blog » Writing Craft » Why Self-Edits are Important
    Why Self-Edits are Important
    by CP Bialois | posted in: Writing Craft | 2
    Good morning everyone!

    CP Bialois
    CP Bialois
    As authors, our minds, days, and lives are often filled to the brim with a million different things from our daily lives that we push through and beat back to another day. Then comes our writing. For most of us, being a full-time writer is the dream, but until then we have to toil away with our regular jobs on top of our budding enterprise.

    Let’s be honest, finishing writing and having our books published are among the biggest thrills we can experience. Along the way we’ve studied books and articles on how to write, had our manuscripts shredded by critique groups, and pummeled out any plot holes our beta readers pointed out to us before sending it to our editors. Unfortunately, there’s a step we missed.

    Self-editing.

    “As strange as it sounds, this is one of the most important steps. It’s been my experience that as much as beta readers and critique groups help, it’s up to us to read through it a couple of times to six as many mistakes as we can.” ???

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Awesome! Thank you for noticing some of my sublety. 😀

      As you noticed, the part in quotes would normally be “fix” instead of “six” and the first sentence’s phrasing would be different and more concise and without the term, “daily lives”.

  4. Peter Guinta
    | Reply

    One thing I keep doing to my own benefit is not just tightly editing my copy, but printing it out to read on paper before it goes anywhere. My first book, a compilation of short stories about Vietnam, had a glaring error at the end of a story that I missed until I saw printed copies. It was a sentence I should have left out. On screen, it didn’t stand out. But when I spotted it later, I blushed. Good copy (to me) means tight wording that makes a piece sing, or at least hum in tune. My college writing professor said to “squeeze the air out of your work, like you’d squeeze a loaf of Wonder Bread.” (I’m showing my age here. Kids, Wonder Bread was an ingeniously designed peanut butter and jelly delivery system.) “Fluff” needs to be cast out into the darkness, where there is weeping and the gnashing of teeth. Thanks for being a kindred spirit.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Totally agree (Except for the Wonder Bread. I wasn’t a fan. LOL). We’ve found printing it out makes it a lot easier to find mistakes. It’s amazing how much of a difference that makes. Things just jump out more.

      Hehe, no worries. I was never much of a fan of Wonder Bread, but the fluff definitely needs to go. In one of my fantasy novels I cut 27k from the manuscript before sending it to my editor. It was hard, but asking ourselves if the scene is necessary and not just a cute side story is imperative to better writing.

  5. Sue Ford
    | Reply

    And this article needed some more self-editing.

    Reread this sentence: It’s been my experience that as much as beta readers and critique groups help, it’s up to us to read through it a couple of times to six as many mistakes as we can.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Yep. Glad to see you found my subtle nod on doing so. 🙂

  6. Rick Bennette
    | Reply

    You hit the nail on the head. I love to trim my work as much as possible. Shorten my sentences. Clean up the tongue twisters.

    One of my funniest mistakes involved a reference to Norman Rockwell. I checked my story a dozen times. So did my beta readers. Only after it went to press did a friend tell me I misspelled Norman Rockwell.
    “I’m an English major,” she told me.
    I looked at her and responded, “An English major, huh, and you didn’t know this about Mr. Rockwell? Why, everyone close to him called him Normal.”
    She apologized. I then gave in and told her it was an error. I corrected it, hit ‘return’ and wouldn’t you know it? The auto correct changed it back to Normal.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Sorry for not responding before this. I only now saw the comment. lol

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

      I’ve had a few nice ones myself over the years. One of the most frustrating mistakes, but funny now, was when my word kept changing done to Done. It didn’t matter if it was in the middle of the sentence or not. Then it suddenly just stopped. lol

  7. Larry
    | Reply

    “six as many mistakes as we can” – nice play on words. Sometimes I find I have to deep six a whole chapter.

    • CP Bialois
      | Reply

      Thanks! 🙂

      Oh yeah, I’ve had everything from single lines to a chapter get tossed. It’s not fun, but it’s a necessary evil. Besides, it gives me a chance to grab a beer. lol

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