How to Save Time and Money on Editing

A professional editor is an author’s best friend. When you are publishing digital content, it’s imperative the words you publish are accurate and clearly written. Readers make assumptions about you and your business by the quality of your writing. If your article or book looks sloppy and unprofessional, your readers will assume you are too. Yikes!

Working with a professional editor or proofreader will protect you from embarrassing typos and give your readers a better reading experience.
However, editing can be costly. Most editors charge by the quality of the writing you give them. The more work your manuscript requires, the longer and more costly the editing process.

So, if you are on a limited budget of time or money, it’s smart to edit your work to the best of your ability before you give it to your professional editor. Even if you have an unlimited budget for your book, conducting a thorough author’s edit before submitting your manuscript to your editor or publisher will increase your confidence and your pride in your manuscript.

Author Enrique Jariel Poncela wrote, “When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” Since Enrique wrote seven books and scores of successful Hollywood screenplays, we can assume he spent quite a bit of time editing.
Use this process to complete your author’s edit before you give your manuscript to your professional editor and you’ll save money and time.

Step 1: Take a break. After you finish a manuscript, blog post, ebook, or other writing, set it aside for at least a day.
Writing and editing are two very different processes. When you write, you are creating a flow of ideas. The most important thing is getting words on the paper. When you edit, you are looking closely at every word and evaluating its worth. For best results, approach your editing as an assignment, not a creative endeavor. Be as picky as you like!

Step 2: Use spell check and grammar check on your computer.
Many authors stop here, assuming spell and grammar check will eliminate all the errors in their document. A computer would see no problem with this sentence, “When her baby arrived, Jill took a six month eternity leave.” A reader would chuckle over this and wonder if you intended that sentence as a pun or it is was an error. Unfortunately, these computerized systems cannot replace human reviews so you need to complete a few more editing steps.

Step 3 Next use your computer’s search function to find all the times you used the word ‘that’, which is often over and unnecessary. Read each sentence where ‘that’ appears and determine if you can eliminate it. When I performed a ‘that’ search on this article, I found eight unneeded ‘that’s’. Did I catch them all?

Step 4: Print out your document and read it from start to finish.
Read it for content. In this read-through, your primary questions are:
• Does this material make sense?
• Is anything unclear or confusing?
• Did I include everything I promised in the introduction?
• Did I repeat anything? In this cut and paste world, it’s easy to use a section of writing more than once in a document.
• Do I enjoy reading this material? Note: If you think your material is boring, so will your readers. Punch it up with some stories, statistics, or humor.

Make liberal notes on your paper with ideas for any additions or deletions, then go back to your computer document and make those changes. Be sure to save your work.

Step 5: Get a pen with a different colored ink than you’ve used in step four. Go to the end of your document and read each paragraph one at a time. In this read-though, you are not reading for ideas. Instead, you are examining the way you’ve written each paragraph and sentence to find the obvious errors.

Check for:
• Missing words
• Run on sentences- These are very long sentences which go on and on so you would run out of breath if you read them aloud. These sentences are hard to follow. Shorter sentences make easier reading. They also add more energy to your document.
• Tense agreement- which means when you are writing in first person, as if you are speaking directly to the reader in one sentence, you don’t switch to third person and write as a third party observer in the next sentence.

Example of tense confusion:
“I urge all writers to edit their work carefully. The writer of this article finds editing a chore.”

Correction:
“I urge all writers to edit their work carefully, even though I find it a chore.”

Go back to your document, make the corrections, and save.

Now your document is ready to go to your editor or proof reader.

Depending on your personality, you may love the editing process or hate it with a passion.

If you have perfectionist tendencies, you may want to continue editing your work until you feel it is perfect. I once knew a woman who worked on her book for seven years because she agonized over every comma.

In my opinion, life is too short to spend seven years on editing! Instead, use these steps over a couple of days, find as many errors as you can in that time period, and then release it to your editor who will enjoy making it even better, freeing you to work on your book marketing or next writing project.

P.S. I hate editing so if there are any typos in this document, please be kind and don’t point them out. I edited this, I promise.

Comments 14

  • Thanks so much for the extremely helpful tips Lynne. I’m going to share with our writer’s group and point them all to the article and your web site. Each time you post, I learn something more to help hone our work.
    Keep on being amazing. S>

  • Lynne has been super helpful through the whole publishing process. As I work with the next book, I’ll heed Lynne’s good advice. She has a wonderful comprehensive way of giving information. Thanks so much.

  • Thank you Lynne. This is a great article, very helpful and all the comments are nice to read.
    I’m working on a self help book. I keep going over and over editing and moving chapters and sections around. It’s become this huge puzzle that I’m trying to fit the pieces into so that it’s perfect. The longer the book gets the more difficult it is to track everything. Any ideas?
    Thank you, Ruby

    • Hi Ruby-

      It can be a big puzzle to get everything in the right spot for your book. I have 2 recommendations- a high tech one and a low tech one. If you like technology, try the Scrivener software. I use it and really like it. You can find a free trial version at http://www.literatureandlattes.com

      If you prefer a more low tech approach, try making a master outline and move sections on your outline and think about them a bit before you move them in your document. That can save you a lot of rework. If you are not into outline, a mind map will work well too.

      Let me know if these ideas help!

  • Thanks Lynne. I took me 10 days to write my book in September but nearly a month to edit it – that was a shock!! And that was going back and forth with a professional proofreader and editor too. I never realised how long that part would take. Love your tips on ‘that’ and not trusting the spell check – I found some corkers in mine.

    On another note, I’m so excited today as my single copy will arrive from the printers for a last check on colours, layout and print quality etc and then I will be saying yes to 500 books arriving here by Christmas – yay! Thanks for a great article Lynne & for all your help & advice over the year. Happy Christmas!! Love Elle x

    • Ellen – Congratulations! I am so proud that you finished your book and copies will be arriving soon! Thank is a wonderful accomplishments. You are right, the process of proofing and editing a book can take 30-90 days. However polishing your words to make them the best they can be is a important task. A well edited book is easier for people to ready and makes you look like am amazing author. You were wise to invest the time in editing. May your book be a smashing success and your 2013 be full of miracles!

  • Thank you so much for this information, It is very helpful to know in writing the book that I’am writing. This is so new for me. I’am a pastor that have many different things going on. It has been something trying to get the book done. But I will not give up. Thank you and merry christmas to you.

  • Thank you Lynne. As usual your advice is beyond timely. Thanks again for sharing your wisdom 🙂

  • Ah, editing! I’m not its biggest fan, so I tend to go to a lot of trouble to avoid it. (One of my favorite avoidance techniques is to write a “pre” first draft, toss it, and then write a new draft from scratch–though it takes more writing time, it cuts my editing time dramatically.)

    Thanks for sharing your tips, Lynne.

  • Really enjoyed your take on “editing.” It’s my least favorite thing to do also but I always remember the part in “Getting the Words Right” where Theodore Cheney talks about Ernest Hemingway.

    I figure if Hemingway could write, rewrite and edit his ending 39 times, I could at least go through my writing 4 or 5 times.

    So I hope beginning Authors will heed your advice now that we can self-publish. Sloppy writing and “formatting” hurt sales.

  • How simple, yet so useful. Thanks Lynne, you are an awesome teacher.

  • Wonderful article. Something I will share with the local writers group here in Puerto Vallarta, Mx. Every author needs to read this. Thank you.

  • More helpful information! Thanks Lynne.

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