April 18, 2020 By Carol Brennan King

Back in the day, I thought writers popped out finished work, all at once when they sat down at the typewriter. Yes, it was a typewriter back then. Oh, I thought they probably read over their work as they sat there, trying to catch any typos, but I had no idea of the serious work editing was or should be.

But I have learned, oh, I have learned. Did you know the book Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 144 times. Then it became a best-seller and birthed a series. Kathryn Stockett received 60 rejection letters for The Help, a book that was on the New York Times bestseller list for over 100 weeks and has been made into a movie.

I could go on and on, or you could just google “the most rejected books,” at https://lithub.com/the-most-rejected-books-of-all-time/ The point is that first manuscript for all of these books went through many revisions and much editing before an agent or publisher decided to take a chance on it. And we could perhaps shorten our own list of times rejected if we do the best possible job of editing our work.

Did you know that there are four types of editing you must do before you send your manuscript to a professional editor.

But, before you get into the four types of editing, I want to emphasize a few simple practices I have found vitally important in turning out a good product.

  1. Let your manuscript rest for a while before you engage in serious editing. And I am not talking a couple hours. Tuck it into a drawer and work on something else. Think a few days, or as I learned from a professional, long enough that you can read it as though someone else wrote it. Think of being objective or not taking it personally when you have to cut or change things.
  2. Then, you must read it out loud. And it is most helpful if you read it to someone else…and you promise not to get bent out of shape if they ask you to clarify something. The point is you pay attention to what you have written. You will catch more typos and other bumps in the road if you read it aloud. It’s interesting how your brain fixes errors when you read silently like when you don’t notice you typed saw and you meant was.
  3. Someone suggested you change the color or font when you edit, again so you can be more objective. That is assuming you are editing on your computer. BUT, I suggest you print the thing out so you can mark it up. This will make the process go more quickly, and you will have more time to consider how to fix your bumps in the road.

When you print out your work, you can also cut it up to rearrange it so that it flows better. That’s much harder to do on the computer first. Once you have cut the work up so that everything is where it belongs and the piece flows, you can go back to the computer and type your changes in or move paragraphs around.

Here’s a book you might find useful. I know the writer and she is brilliant.

There is lots more to this editing thing, like those four kinds of editing I referenced earlier: structural editing, stylistic editing, copy editing, and proofreading. But I think you have enough to think about this week. There is more to come.

If you still want to explore the subject today, you might want to click on the following link from the New York Times.


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