Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How I edit a book

The editing process

I have a long editing process to make my books as good as they can be. It takes four to five months after the first draft before my books are ready to publish. I'm going to share the steps I take.

First I'd like to say that a professional editor is vital for any author. Two is even better, one for content and one for copy editing. However, that costs thousands of dollars for a full length novel and I simply don't have that kind of money. I've heard that I should make it happen anyway, but I'm busy making food and shelter happen for my family, so I do my very best to wear the hat of an editor. If I am able to earn enough income off my books, I'll begin contracting the job.

Editing is a long, difficult process that requires intense focus. The one thing I have going for me is an excellent work ethic and the ability to focus to the exclusion of everything else, which is wonderful up to the point where my wife and children want my attention.

Here is the step by step process I take to edit my novels.

Step 1: Color editing

In color editing, I go through the story and look at each scene. I make certain that the five senses are represented: sight, sound, smell, touch and taste in that order of importance. I also look to see if there's any place I can add a gesture or make the scene more vivid. Another thing I keep my eye open for is opportunities to insert a touch of humor.

I want the reader to be able to see the people their reading about. I want them to feel the location and hear the noise around them. It takes small clues and then the reader fills in the rest. Adding the weather and seasons is a vital key to creating the atmosphere as well.

This step takes me about 60-80 hours to complete for a 100,000 word novel.

Step 2: Copy editing - round one

This is where I thoroughly comb through every word of the manuscript to ensure it is correct. Not only do I try to make certain the words and punctuation are correct, I analyze it within the sentence and then analyze how that sentence fits with the ones before and after it and then how each sentence fits within the paragraph and how the paragraphs fit with each other.

In a 100,000 word novel there will be many thousands of corrections in this round and it takes about 80-100 hours of work.

Step 3: Beta readers and two month break

I haven't had beta readers through every book, but I do have one dedicated one now. I give the book to her and she makes numerous suggestions. She's wonderful. :)

I also set aside the book and refuse to look at it for those two months. It gives the manuscript time to fade from my mind enough that I'm able to look at it again with new eyes. I usually try to make the cover at this point too.

Step 4: Add the corrections the beta reader makes.

This usually takes about 20-30 hours of work and there are hundreds or even thousands of corrections to make.

Step 5: Copy editing - round two

This is exactly the same as the edit in round one. Even with all that's come before, there will still be around a thousand corrections. It will become slightly more refined to make certain the words flow smoothly too. Due to the need to focus on every word, including the ones that aren't there, it takes around 60-80 hours.

Step 6: Final read-through

I print the manuscript out and read the entire story to be certain that everything makes sense and that it reads well. Here, I'll find a couple of inconsistencies or instances where I say the same things twice. There will be a couple of typos and missing or extra words that I find too. I have a bad habit of missing quotations on dialogue at the end of a paragraph and try to catch that here.

This takes about 20 hours to read and make the corrections.

The finished product

It is difficult for a writer to wear an editor's hat, so I work very hard to separate the jobs. There will still be a few typos that have escaped my diligence at this point, but I hope that if anyone finds them that they'll tell me so I can correct them. Even if they don't, I'm still happy with what I've accomplished. By this point, I'm confident that I'm putting out a quality, valuable product.

All my best,

John H. Carroll


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your steps! I have been considering becoming a book editor because I love to read, but my imagination doesn't extend as far as creating a story. I really admire how you can wear the mask of each person that it takes to make a book complete:) I wish you much success with your books.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome. :)

There is definitely a need for more book editors. I wish you the best fortune.

Thank you and all my best. :)

John H. Carroll