Manuscript Editing Tips – Nonfiction


Nonfiction Manuscript Editing

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?

Structure

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…

Rhythm

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…

Verbs

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.

Simplify

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.

Developmental editing

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…

Copy editing

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

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.

Sensitivity editing

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 monika@monikaribeiro.net

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.

Creative Writing – Novels vs. Nonfiction vs. Poetry


Creative Writing - Novel Writing
Creative Writing – Novel Writing

I’m a trained non fiction editor and journalist. I’m also a self-taught poet with two poetry books to my name. I enjoy locating problems with non fiction pieces and love seeing the fruits of good editing.

Non fiction writing and editing are relatively straight forward. They’re all about reality and research. You don’t have to remember made up characters nor look for creative ways to make things happen. In non fiction, things have already happened (most of the time). Your focus is on conveying your knowledge in the most interesting and factual way. Poetry and short story manuscripts are fine too. They’re relatively short and sweet (in the context of editing). You begin to see results relatively fast which encourages you to press on.

Fiction writing and editing though… That’s a whole ‘nother story…

The first draft of my novel is done. I’m thrilled about that, but first drafts are soooo imperfect. In my experience, most of the work happens between the first and the final draft of a book. Here are three things that helped me so far…

Planning My Novel (A Rough Outline)

I’m a pantser – not a plotter. Meaning: I let the story lead the way and allow characters to show me who they are and where they want to go. I figure stuff out as I go along. That’s just my natural inclination which is fine. With that said, I’m discovering that it is beneficial to plan my novel, even if it’s just a rough outline…

The average novel wordcount falls between 60.000 – 90.000 words. That’s a lot of words. It’s easy to lose the plot (literally and figuratively speaking). Again, collections of poems and/or short stories are different in that respect. Individual poems/stories should be connected thematically somehow. However, you don’t have to remember details of poem number two or story number three to nail the ones in the middle of your collection. Poems and short stories are standalones. Chapters of your novel – not so. They’re interdependent. You need to remember what your characters have gone through at the beginning of your book to be able to take them all the way through… to the end.

Ultimately, every project is about crossing that finish line. For an aspiring novelist, that line is the final draft of their novel. It’s about getting there a little faster. Writers are re-writers. Editing, re-writing, revising, re-writing, editing and revising some more are unavoidable… But, a plan can save one a few rounds of hovering over their manuscript. As they say, who fails to plan plans to fail.

Asking for Feedback

Novel writing is a new territory for me. I’m sure it will become easier if/as I continue to write fiction… However, to make this process a little smoother (now) I ask for feedback, every now and again.

You have to Be Careful Whom You Ask Though. Not everyone’s qualified nor responsible enough to speak into your story. The person/s should be competent and able to provide their observations in a constructive way. But then, there’s also the right and the wrong way to receive feedback. Be open-minded. Don’t be afraid of critical evaluation. Embrace what resonates with you. 

creative writingThe “critic” whose advice resonated with me the most is a former journalist/newspaper editor. Her honest feedback helped me acknowledge that I started my novel in the wrong place. I’m using the word ‘acknowledge’ because I kind of sort of knew that my beginning could be problematic. My main characters’ conflict was too intense, introduced too soon, etc. I think I might have been secretly hoping to get away with it… A competent, well-meaning critic will not allow you to get away with things. They’ll tell you how it is… So… Reiterating… Good feedback, however heart-breaking it may be, is your friend. Welcome it and… Start Your Novel in the Right Place.

As you may already know, I went back to the drawing board. And now, my opening is sooo much better. So much so that English teacher and bestselling author Desiri Okobia asked if she could use my first page for year 11’s creative writing lessons… Whaaaat? It’s a big deal – especially that this is my very first opening to my very first novel… I know I’ve digressed a little, but novel writing is a quest, so it’s important to Celebrate Small Victories…  

Letting IT Rest

Another thing that has always worked for me, with poetry and now with my novel manuscript too, is letting it rest for some time. If you’re working to a tight deadline, that may not be possible. However, if you can, leave your first draft alone for a month or even longer… Don’t edit, don’t re-write, don’t even re-read it. Distance yourself from your AAAMAZING story and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes. Bear in mind, once your emotions subside, the story might seem a little less aaamazing. It is a good thing though because now you’re able to see what needs to be changed… The opposite of that might be true too. You might come back to your manuscript and find that it’s good enough (first drafts never are though).

I know… Letting it rest might be annoying when you just want to get on with it,

or… like me… you’ve told the world,

“Hey! I’m writing a novel!”

And now, the world keeps asking,

“Hey! So, when’s the novel coming out then?

“Errr… Soon.”

Sometimes, “soon” is all there is to say… Personally, I prefer to take my time and produce an excellent piece of writing rather than produce something mediocre quickly…

There’s so much more to be said about this novel writing process, but I’ll end here for now. If you have just began or you’re thinking about writing a novel, I hope this is helpful…

Let’s write this novel, shall we? Yes, we shall! 😉

Please SUBSCRIBE HERE to receive the first chapter of my novel… soon.:)

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