For many of us writers, the editing process can be and is a drag. It’s the part most of us don’t look forward to, and we just wish we could write and upload first drafts to Amazon all day and all night, making a full-time living off passive income from now until, well, whenever to be honest.
The tips I’m going to give you today actually makes the editing process manageable, if not fun. It’s a fun process because for one, it allows you to read the story you created time and again. While the Law of Diminishing Returns eventually sets in after you read your story for the fifth or sixth time, rest assured that you will have a clean manuscript ready for publication.
In fact, if you can’t afford an editor, the best of which cost four-figures, you’re in even more luck, because this editing process is foolproof and one that I’ve tried for Northern Knights and Swords of Destiny.
Best yet, I managed to eliminate most if not all typos, plot holes, and even the teeniest of errors. I’m not saying my manuscript is error-free, but it’s as close to being so as possible.
Step One: Correct Major Errors
Okay, you’ve written your first draft, so now we’re looking for ONLY major plot errors. If you’d like, you can make grammatical corrections and even that of minor errors, but you’re looking for the major ones.
If you tend to write your entire manuscript without a next-day edit, which in my opinion is part of the writing process, you will find a lot of these.
If something like peoples’ names, places, geography, weather, ideas, and claims don’t match up here, you want to change them as soon as you get a chance.
Also, don’t freak if something doesn’t match up. Just look back into the story to find consistency. Keep your manuscript on a Word document and use the ‘Find’ tab if say, you suspect the same place or character has two different names, or if a character or even your narrations contradicts something previously.
Also, don’t read through your manuscript once. Do this TWICE, as it’s likely you will have missed a few major errors. For some odd reason, when we read through our own manuscripts, we can and will miss things, so don’t leave anything to chance and read twice before moving to Step Two.
Step Two: Correct Minor Errors
Okay, now you can move on to correcting minor errors. Some of these could be a character acknowledging another by mistake. For instance, in Missing in Columbia, Micah assures Cain of something, but just a few paragraphs later, Cain erroneously states, “Like Jed said.”
As you can see, going through Step One, I missed this crucial point since I looked for major errors. The example here is a minor plot hole.
Things such as character moods are big here as well. For instance, if Cain’s uncertain about something in one sentence but is confident in the very next, it can also be an example of inconsistency. Minor, obviously, but it will make more readers pause than you’d think.
If it’s hot out and Cain’s dripping with sweat one minute before being fully recovered the next, it’s another minor plot error. If Cain’s right-handed but is doing things with his left, it could be another error.
Jerry Jenkins once stated he had his characters wearing winter clothes in the Sahara during one of his drafts and it was only after going through his initial steps of revision did he spot it.
Read through your manuscript at least twice, and if you still find a good number of errors, read through one more time. I like to live by this rule: When you think you found your last error, read through your work again. You’re bound to find another.
Step Three: Grammar Errors
Here’s the fun part. Grammar errors.
Now, the good news is you might have spotted a few errors while reading through your manuscript, and if you have, great.
A lot of us will find and correct grammar errors while searching for both major and minor plot errors, myself included. As I said, feel free to fix them, just remain intent on the actual purpose you have of going through your manuscript searching for plot holes.
Now that we have most, if not all plot holes out of the way, grammar errors are the main attraction.
Always look for these words in general:
1. There, they’re, their
2. Your, you’re, you’ll
3. Its, it’s
4. Have, had
5. Is, are
6. Any word that describes possession. If something belongs to multiple people, the apostrophe is always after the ‘s’. If something belongs to one person, it comes before the ‘s’.
Step Four: Grammar, Part II: Omit Needless Words
This is a biggie, because every author thinks more is better. They couldn’t be more wrong. Less is more. Less is power. So make sure you reel in that power.
Omit the following words unless it makes sense to keep them:
Most of these words either contribute to passive writing or describe a verb that can be remedied by using a stronger verb.
‘That’ should only be used to clarify something. For any sentence with ‘that’ in it, eliminate the word and see if the sentence still makes sense without it.
Like and as are similes and should be eliminated.
Suddenly can be replaced with an author just stating what happened. The reader will know that an event suddenly happened.
Ditto for only. If there’s one, the reader knows there’s only one. And double ditto for just.
Had comes before verbs in passive writing. Eliminate it. ‘If someone had told Cain’ is passive. ‘If someone told Cain’ gets the same point across.
Step Five: Eliminate Adverbs
Anything ending in ‘ly.’ Seriously…..there is always a stronger noun or verb for your lazy adverb.
Cain ran quickly sounds terrible.
Cain darted cues the reader that he’s running faster than usual.
I like to use adverbs when a character speaks in dialogue, as it adds to their voice.
Speaking of which: Bonus Step: Add Voice
Yes, the final step is to add voice to your characters. Make sure your characters all sound different, to the point the reader can tell who’s speaking.
Don’t let your characters talk like you.
Instead, give them their own language.
Let them use certain words, phrases, and speaking styles.
Give your characters variety.
You might have a character who possesses attitude. Show it in their dialogue.
Another character might have a deadpan persona. Again, show it.
A third character might be the king of one-liners. Again, and again, show it.
Characters might have a short personality and will emphasize words and phrases often.
Give your characters voice and swagger so the reader knows who’s speaking and when.