How to Edit a Novel: Practical Tips for First-Time EditorsWorking From Home

If you’re a self published author, editing is often one of the responsibilities that would normally be handled by a traditional publishing company but which now transfers through to something that you might have to take on yourself. Editing is a natural part of being a writer, and there’s no reason why writers shouldn’t take on editing their own manuscripts – or why keen editors like can’t offer our skills as freelancers. 

If editing sounds difficult, it’s not: Here are some unbeatable practical tips for first-time editors. 

Editing: The Second Step

Editing your book should be the second step of the writing process. The first, of course, is actually writing your book to begin with. Don’t think about the editing process during the writing phase: If you do, your brain can get stuck on a bunch of questions that are much better suited to the editing process. 

When you write, write freely and don’t worry about how to edit a book later. This even allows you as a writer the freedom to let the occasional spelling mistake slide: You can fix it later in the process.

Once you’re confident that you have the skeleton of the story written down, it’s time to move on to the editing phase. 

Using Grammarly for Better Grammar

One of the first things that any author should do even before they start the official edit of their manuscript is to run it through a reliable spellchecking tool. Many paid and free ones are available: Grammarly is one of the best, used by thousands of freelancers, writers, journalists and industry professionals every day. 

It can help you to spot any spelling and grammar mistakes (as well as repetitions) that you might have missed. Once this is done, it’s time to start the first part of your edit to find things you’d like to change. 

Online Dictionaries and Thesauruses Are Your Friend

Online dictionaries and thesauruses should either be installed on your computer or marked in your browser’s bookmarks. When you’re editing, it’s easy to realize that you’ve used the same word more than once – or that you’d like to say something in a different way. Refer to online dictionaries for this rather than dragging any heavy books closer. 

Use a Secondary Reader

Once you’ve started the editing process, it’s going to start to feel like you have no idea what you’re doing anymore. It might feel like you’re hacking off the wrong parts of the story – or like you just can’t get your head around a specific chapter. This is normal and often something that every editor and writer will wrestle with. 

How do you fix this? Reliable secondary readers (sometimes called beta-readers) who can read your manuscript in the editing process. This is useful, especially where you need feedback to keep moving the editing process forward. Where something doesn’t work as well or could be said better, beta-readers are quick to say it. 

Let Your Manuscript Stew

Never rush straight from writing to the editing process. It’s always a good idea for writers to let their manuscript sit for a while after they are done writing it: The writing process can often be so exhausting by itself that editing can create “blind spots” for writers if it’s done to soon. Give it time before editing your manuscript – whether it’s a few days or weeks – and by the time you’re reading it again,  it will feel like a  new and fresh work.  

This can be the key to avoiding decision fatigue, a very common condition whereby the brain is exhausted by – literally – thinking about too much in a short amount of time.