Clearly while I’m composing or creating my story, I avoid the editing trap. I prefer to wait until I’m finished before going back and doing the work of editing, revising, correcting. Nonetheless, to get into the story before I work, I must read the last little bit I’ve written. When I do that, I’m often amazed at the number of mistakes I find. Silly little typos. Words left out. What a mess, I say to myself.
When the end comes, I begin the process of self-editing. Here is where I catch all those annoying little mistakes. Or, at least, I hope I do so. The problem is when one is creating, one’s mind is in a very different place. Furthermore, my mind thinks a lot faster than I can type. So I’m way ahead of myself. Hence, words missing. How can one write a chase scene slowly? I can’t. My fingers fly across the page with my hero or heroine. Even so, when I go back and begin catching errors, I also do a lot of re-writing. I have to fix scenes, insert information, delete events, shift things around. I, thereby, get caught with my fingers back on the keyboard where they threaten to make more little pesky mistakes. It’s an endless cycle.
That’s the price we pay for self-editing. Of course, we all must do it. Who is the best person to go back and clean up a first draft? The author, of course. It’s our job. We are the ones who know the story better than anyone else.
By the way, if you catch errors in my blog posts, please be kind.
Do the all the self-editing you can and then turn the manuscript over to an outside reader.
My first reader is someone not charged with finding typos or little errors. That reader is asked the big questions: 1) How do you feel about the characters? Are they sufficiently different? 2) Does the plot flow. Are there any inconsistencies in the plot? 3) How are things tied up in the end. Did we resolve everything for you the reader? 4) How does the setting affect the story?
If that first reader sees typos, they make a note, but that’s not their main job and it shouldn’t be.
Next, turn the manuscript over to a Beta reader whose job is to read for content.
You’ve now made changes from the first reading so believe me, there will be new errors in the manuscript. The second reader will again read for content, but this time, you also ask that reader to carefully mark for typos.
The manuscript goes to a professional reader (probably paid).
To make sure your manuscript is completely clean, turn it over to a professional reader (one you pay). This person not only reads for content but also for spelling errors, typos, inconsistencies in names or places. They catch when paragraphs need to be combined or separated. The list is endless. By now after the first two readings, you know the book is ready for a professional set of eyes. You’ve done all you can and it’s time to pass it on. You’d never want to turn a first draft over to a professional. You want it as clean as you with your limited self-editing can get it. Otherwise, you’ll waste a lot of money and time.
Turn the corrected manuscript over to a final reader for typos
Okay, so I’ve learned that the little errors drive me nuts and I often miss them when I’m reading the galleys on my computer. So, I turn the final manuscript–the one that’s been read by three outside readers–over to a fourth reader, unusually unpaid, whose job is to catch the little errors. Remember I got my hands on the manuscript after the professional reader. That means I probably made some revisions and those probably have errors in them that I can’t see. This final reading will get your manuscript as clean as possible before you send it to the publisher.
So, the truth is if you simply self-edit without help from several sets of eyes, you will make mistakes. You may be good, but no writer can do both well. Accept that and get help. You’ll be glad you did!