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So You Wrote A Book, What The Hell Do You Do Now? Part 1-Editing

Updated: May 2, 2023

Updated November 3, 2021

You have your newly written novel in your hands. You are ready to share it with the world. DON'T. But before you do that, you have a lot of shit you have to do first.

NOTE: If you are serious about writing, start your author platform now. Don't wait until you have your first book out. If you think you want to start a blog, start that now. Get a website free or get your own domain. Either way, just get started on it now. BEFORE YOU START A BLOG READ: Jane Friedman's post on blogging.

So let's start there.

You've finished your book. If you're lucky, you still have hair left, your husband/wife/significant other didn't leave you, and your kids don't hate you.

When I wrote my book, I was all consumed. I still am, but I have learned to balance things, like sitting in front of this computer and typing this damn post. Ah, but I digress, that will be another post later in this series.

You wrote your book asking, 'what the hell do I do now? Put it on Amazon and sell it?' NO! Step away from the book. Do not show it to anyone. You show this draft, which I am sure sucks, then you'll want to show them the second and third. Then one day you'll wake up with no friends. Cause they will hate you.

(Even if you want to publish it yourself, it is not ready. Please don't think it is and put it up on Amazon or another platform.)

Marcy Kennedy in her book on Showing and Telling In Fiction she suggests you step away for three months. I didn't do it for that long, but I did do it for a fair amount of time. (I highly recommend you get all her books. As well as all of Angela Ackerman/Becca Puglisi's check out their website. These books will help you as you edit. They will help with everything from setting, character development, just all things story and writing related. I use these books the most during my writing. There are others, these authors are my favorites.)

You may be sitting there saying I will just pay an editor. That is a great idea. But if you give your first draft to an editor, they will give it back and say fix it. An editor isn't going to write your story for you. They are there to tighten your story. A good editor can make a good story a great story.

Right now, all you have are the bones of a story. They aren't even in any shape. All you have is a big ass bag of bones. So we need to get those into a whole body, with muscle and meat.

Let's assume some time has passed. You decide it is time to start the editing process. For me, I print out my pages after I have at least run it through spell check and Grammarly or ProWritingAid. I use ProWritingAid regularly. It isn't a substitute for a real human, but it does get it cleaned up so you can make sense of what you've written. Which ever you want to do this part is up to you. But I found that working with paper made it easier to re-write a scene, add in new, or move things around. It's your choice.

If you are going to use Marcy Kennedy's Showing and Telling, you will want to use your word program to find all those words she suggests and highlight them before you print out your book. This way you will see those words and you can rewrite those sentences as you do this edit of your MS (manuscript). This book is the best one to start with, in my opinion. I did a lot of telling when I first wrote. That was the biggest complaint I got.

In my later edits, I use WordRake and SmartEdit. When I say later edits, I mean close to what I send to my editor. WordRake is a proofreading software. Again, this doesn't take the place of a trained editor. (You may choose to use these earlier.) I also use the Hemingway App. Very cheap and helps you cut out the 'wordiness' of your story.

The cool thing about SmartEdit is you can program all those words into it and it will find them and show them in the context of the sentence, in your MS and allow you to change it right there, in the body of work.

The reason I suggest using these in the second or later edits of your work is your first draft is crap. You need to make some serious changes to it, but that will require you to read through it and make human changes first. (Again, this is just my opinion. You may find that you want to use these first. Totally whatever floats your boat.) SmartEdit also shows you cliches, adverbs, punctuation and lots of other stuff. Check it out for yourself.

SIDE NOTE: During your writing of your book, you should go to a writer's conference or at minimum get in a writer's group. You will meet people who can read a few chapters and tell you what you're doing wrong and then you can correct it. I did this. After I went to a writer's conference, I asked three different editors to review three different chapters each. They did it for free. I got invaluable knowledge. Plus, this will also help build up a thick skin. You might as well get used to people telling you what is wrong with your MS now. Learn to take it and not break down into tears.

So you've run it through spell check and a few other things, and you have your MS in front of you. Go through it one chapter at a time. Don't rush. Get some of Angela Ackerman's books on how to show emotion, not just tell how they are feeling. Keep Marcy Kennedy's books handy.

You really need this editing step. This is the first layer to building your completed body of work. This will also be the longest hardest edit. You will pull your hair out, scream at everyone around you, drink endless amounts of coffee, and for me, I drank a lot of whiskey during this time. This part of the process will make you question your very existence in life. Okay, maybe not that bad, but it is the most painful part of the process, in my opinion.

This type of edit will help you narrow in on your story as well. I often lose a lot of my story during this edit. You have to decide at some point what you want to cut from your story. Right now you have your main character fighting the dragon, saving the girl, and building an entire city on his own. Not going to work. You will need to tighten up what your main character wants to accomplish and what is hindering him from doing it. You may choose not to cut down your story. You may choose to leave it as is, just edit it, then send it to an editor. I promise you she/he will tell you to cut this out/ cut that out and you will be like WHY? Quit bitching and just do it.

Go through each chapter individually. (You can worry about tying them together later.) Chances are you will rearrange/combine chapters during this edit. Remember, this is only the first edit. This is where you are building your first layer of your MS. This is the foundation. You get this done and do it well. The rest of the layers will fit nicely on top.

If you choose to half ass this part. Your story will show it. So take your time. Get this right. When you complete this process and you make all the changes from paper into your computer (you're not going to like this) you're going to do it again. BWAA-HA. If you didn't cut any of your story out during your first edit, do it during a subsequent edit. However, the next round will be much easier. I usually don't reprint my MS after this. I do all my changes on the computer.

Again, set your MS aside. Take a break from it. The editing process fries your brain. You need to step away and then come back to it. It will help see it more clearly. Remember, don't rush this part. Each editing layer will tighten your story and make it better. You will read your MS between each edit. This is one major reason you need to take a break. Clarity.

Want to read the second post over editing in this series? Click here.

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