“I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.” – Truman Capote

Cutting things out… that’s a writer’s greatest nightmare. It may be your ego. You spent days and nights over that manuscript. Now, cutting a single sentence away breaks your heart. Still, you have to do it. The editing process is an absolutely necessary part in the journey of a book. Even Hemingway, America’s most beloved writer, had to listen to his editor. Even he had to tone it down.

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Does self-publishing include self-editing? Is it really impossible to edit your own work? Do you need a really big budget to hire an editor?

You have many questions on your mind when you finally get to this stage. These days, anyone can get published. It’s possible to get your book out there without reaching its fully polished version. If you want to attract readers, however, that’s not what you’ll do.

Even if you decide to hire an editor for this job, you’ll still have to improve your manuscript first. There’s no way to avoid this, so you better stop looking for excuses. We’ll suggest a step-by-step editing guide that will get you on the right track.

A Self-Publisher’s Way to Editing

  1. Break Up the Editing Stage

First, you plan. Then, you execute. When you’re trying to edit a manuscript, you’re not just reading through it and fixing few issues along the way. That’s called proofreading. You have a lot of work before you get there.

When you break up the editing stage to few sub-stages, you’ll stay more focused on the details. However, you’ll pay attention to the whole picture at the same time. These are the main aspects to focus on during the editing stage:

  • Substance – This part of the editing process will be based on an analysis. You’ll consider how the audience would perceive your writing. Here are the main questions to focus on at this point:
    • Does everything fit together in a coherent whole?
    • Did you present a logical order of events? Can the reader make the connections?
    • Did you include all necessary information for the readers to understand the characters and their decisions?
    • Is there too much information? Did you forget to leave something to the reader’s imagination?
  • Organization – You know you’re dealing with an audience whose attention span is not as great as we’d like it to be. Today’s readers prefer short chapters and paragraphs.
    • Is your manuscript organized well?
    • Are there any long chapters that you could separate in two?
    • Did you use attractive headlines?
  • Style – After the changes you made during the previous editing stages, is your style preserved? Try to approach the manuscript from a reader’s point of view. Is your unique voice recognizable?
  • Syntax, word choice, grammar, and spelling errors – Finally, you’ll edit the language. Pay attention to the following aspects:
    • Passive voice and sentence complexity
    • Clarity
    • Punctuation
    • Use of technical terms or jargon that not all readers understand
  1. Get the Barter Experience

Bartering is an effective strategy for solving different business problems. When you have to get your manuscript edited and you don’t want to spend money, you have a business problem. Bartering means “trading goods and services between two or more parties without the use of money.” Perfect.

The only question is: how do you do it? Every author knows how hard it is to edit their own work. However, a writer can be the perfect critic of someone else’s work.

Many other writers are facing the same problem with editing, so you can help each other out. You can pair with a writer and exchange manuscripts. Of course, this has to be someone you fully trust. You don’t want your work stolen. You’ll read their work, they will read yours. You’ll exchange opinions and impressions. Once you get another writer’s point of view, it will be easier for you to fix the flaws before you publish the book.

  1. Get an Editor for an Affordable Price

Everyone wants to avoid this. In most cases, however, it’s necessary to hire a professional editor. Fortunately, today’s market is highly competitive, so the prices for high-quality editing are dropping. You can easily find an online service that provides such services for a price you can afford. Consider this as an investment that will definitely pay off when you publish the book.

Jason Lewis, an editor at Essayontime, tells us how we can save money on editing: “Some writers decide to send their work to an editor as soon as they complete the first draft. This is a lot of work for an editor, and it clearly costs more money. If you make your own efforts first, you’ll send a polished version that won’t take much editing and consulting. That’s how you get faster results and you pay less. Plus, there’s no way for the editor to affect your unique voice if you make your message as clear as possible.”

So what do you do before you get editorial help? You edit. It’s the simplest, safest way to get the best results.

There’s one thing to remember: no writer is the same. Some decide to hire editors, others do everything by themselves. Some writers pair with other writers and help each other out. During the proofreading stage, some like to use automated tools and others like to print out the text to go sentence by sentence. You can try few methods to see what works for you.

The steps described above are universal and flexible. You can adjust them in a way that works for you. The important thing is to edit. Don’t skip that stage under any circumstances!

Rachel Bartee is an educator and a freelance writer from Iowa. She would prefer to go without her lunch just to make her thoughts into worthy writings. She feels inspired by her morning yoga and creative writing classes she is attending. Get in touch on Twitter.