Nonfiction manuscript editing can be challenging if you aren’t sure what to look out for. Yet, the better your manuscript is before you pass it onto a book editor the better the final product will be.
So, where should you start self-editing?
Focus on story structure, its clarity and flow. For example, when I edit my articles or blog posts, I want every paragraph to be a logical follow up to the previous one. The same goes for chapters, etc. Moving from one concept to another should make logical sense… When drafting, I’m not too concerned about what goes where. Drafting is a little like scattering your puzzles on the floor. Editing is like getting rid of the puzzles that belong to another set, finding those that got misplaced and then putting the right puzzles in the right places…
Read your writing out loud and hear what it sounds like. When you find problems with its rhythm you will be able to make the changes you need to make. Better yet, get someone else to read your story out loud and see if and where they get stuck or lose the plot…
When self-editing, pay attention to verbs like ‘is’, ‘was’, ‘has’, ‘had’, ‘can’, etc. They get overused and they’re not the most descriptive. I tend to google word synonyms to find more descriptive ways of saying what I want to say. You can use a dictionary too. The bottom line is – we don’t like non-descriptive words and we don’t want to repeat the same words over and over and over again.
I keep having to remind myself the K.I.S.S. formula (keep it simple, stupid). If you’re naturally inclined to long-winded writing, you will understand this strange tendency to use 10 words in order to write 5-word sentences… Oops! I’ve just done it here. Anyways, “long-windedness” can be a good thing, sometimes. E.g. when you want to slow down the pacing of a novel to accomplish a specific goal like building suspension (for instance). However, in non-fiction – within this context, less is usually more. So, do remember to K.I.S.S.
On this note, you may have read one of my recent posts about publisher/editor Barbara Campbell (by whom I was trained). “I remember proudly presenting my first feature to her. It was embellished – quite “flowery”. She cut so much out. I got upset thinking she took my soul out of the piece. I then showed it to my friend who had read the original. She didn’t hesitate to tell me that Barbara’s pen made it better.” Quote by me, Voice Newspaper Online.
Typos, Spelling and Grammar Mistakes
I won’t talk about them much because we all know that they must go. So, look out for well-known baddies such as typos, spelling and grammar errors. Goal: eradicate as many baddies as you can.
Writing might be an art not a science, but editing is… both. The final goal of manuscript editing is to produce a great read that’s tailored to industry standards. If you’re writing a book, I recommend that you hire a book editor. Even the best writers “commit” typos and “abuse” sentences, sometimes. Plus, you can’t see what you can’t see…
When you have done all that you can let a good editor help you do the rest… Keep reading to learn about different levels of professional editing. This info should help you decide what book editing services your manuscript requires.
The very first level of editing is developmental editing which comes before copy editing and proofreading (the last two are not the same). As the name implies, developmental editing is meant to develop the core of your story. It is the most time consuming and labour-intensive part of the editing process. Developmental editing considers your audience and/or target market. Many self-published authors do developmental edits themselves because paying someone to do them can be costly. Plus, most editors are copy editors who don’t do developmental work. However, a good editor should be able to give you developmental guidance and offer suggestions on how to develop your manuscript before moving onto the next stage…
Line and copy editing are about the language. Quite often, non-fiction is written to impart knowledge and/or convey a message. Typos and grammatical mistakes will impact on your reader’s confidence in your knowledge (even if writing isn’t your area of expertise). Hence, copy editing is necessary to help your manuscript stand out.
Proofreading should come at the very end of editing process – when all other changes have been made. It is not the proof-reader’s job to correct your story structure. They are after missed typos, punctuation, misspellings, bad grammar and/or other language mistakes e.g. UK vs. US English, etc.
So, usually that would be it. However, there’s one other level of editing that’s not commonly known but is worth mentioning (I think). This one too should come long before proofreading, of course.
I’ve recently had a consultation with a potential client. During our consultation, I discovered that he had a decent message. However, the audience whom he was trying to reach did not want to hear it… I believe that’s because he conveyed it without sensitivity to their culture and understanding of life. Sensitivity editors search for unintentional misrepresentations, bias, racism, and/or stereotypes. Sometimes, they’re called diversity editors. Oh, how we need them…
So, I hope this helps you self-edit your nonfiction manuscript with a lot more confidence – word by word, page by page and chapter by chapter. If you are looking for a good nonfiction editor, however, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, I have a treat for you 🙂 – an expert interview with a TV script editor! She has worked with BBC4, Sky One, Sky Atlantic and other visual storytelling pros. We will be talking about script and novel writing, editing, storytelling, etc. Coming up next… So, please stay tuned.