One of the biggest challenges for indie authors is producing a clean, professional copy edit. Most of us don’t have the budget to hire an editor and even more of us desperately need one. So, what is a poor indie author to do? Well, either pony up the cash to hire an editor or learn to self-edit.
While preparing to publish Fall of Darkness, I read and re-read my manuscript so many times in an effort to self-edit that I swore I would never want to read it again. No matter how many times I edited it, I found something different to change with each read. Needless to say, I became engrossed in a vicious cycle of edits and re-edits. I would probably be editing still.
As luck would have it, I stumbled across a list of editing tips in the Indie Author Group on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/smashwordsauthor/doc/210175125681806/) and they have forever changed the way I approach self-editing. Utilizing these tips, I was able to search my manuscript for common errors I had no idea I was making. It was surprising to see how many times I used the words ‘was,’ ‘just,’ or ‘began.’ Searching your document by key word for each rule helps to identify common mistakes you may have overlooked in your proofreading. Today I would like to share a little of what I’ve learned.
First, it’s all about the action. Characters don’t ‘start’ or ‘begin’ to do things. They DO them. Search your document for words like ‘started’ and ‘began.’ Unless they are the beginning of a series of actions for a character, get rid of them. It is much more effective to say, “Joe jogged down the street,” instead of, “Joe started jogging down the street.”
Show, don’t tell. I know we’ve all heard this one, so do it. Search for words like ‘feel’ and ‘felt,’ then eliminate them when possible. Instead of, “Joe felt a spider crawl across his foot,” you might consider, “A spider crawled across Joe’s foot” (and insert shudder here.) The same goes for ‘and then’ and ‘then.’ They’re both telling phrases. Instead of “then he screamed,” just say “he screamed.”
People speak in contractions, so write with them. For example, instead of ‘had not,’ use ‘hadn’t.’ Doing so will help your prose to sound more natural. However, don’t use the universal ‘replace’ function or you may end up inventing words like ‘hadn’ted’ instead of ‘had noted.’ You may want to consider starting a new document when editing, just to be safe. There have been times I wish I had.
Try to avoid using the phrase ‘there was.’ Sometimes it’s justified, but not often. Search for this phrase and try to reword any sentences that use it. While we are on the subject of ‘was,’ avoid passive statements, such as “Joe was screaming.” It is a much stronger statement to say, “Joe screamed.” Identify any sentences in which you use ‘was’ with ‘-ing’ words and try to reword those sentences.
There is a distinct difference between ‘they’re,’ ‘their,’ and “there.” There is also a difference between ‘to,’ ‘two,’ and ‘too.’ Search your document for common misused homophones like these and ensure each has been used properly. It’s all too easy for the eye to scan over a word that sounds the same, but is far from what is meant.
One rule I often find myself breaking is avoidance of words such as ‘very’ and ‘really.’ Joe isn’t ‘very’ hot. He’s either hot or he’s not. The same goes for ‘just’ and ‘only.’ Make sure you truly need them. If you can justify the use of ‘just’ or ‘only,’ make sure it is next to the word you intended to modify.
Another word with which I personally struggle is the word ‘that.’ Although commonly used in speech, “that” is not necessary, but may sound correct when read. ‘That he,’ ‘that she,’ and ‘that they’ are all unnecessary and should be avoided when possible. Also, be careful not to use ‘that’ in place of ‘who.’ It is “the man who drove,” not “the man that drove.”
Perform a search for the troublesome word, ‘like.’ See if ‘as though’ or ‘as if’ sounds better in its place. I’ve found if it’s followed by a full sentence, then ‘like’ is more than likely not the best choice. Another sneaky little unnecessary word is ‘of.’ “Inside it” is better than “inside of it.” Also, try to avoid split infinitives. Although “to boldly go” is generally accepted, other split infinitives, such as “to not go,” sound awkward.
Make sure your singular and plural pronouns match. If referring to a group, the pronoun should be plural. If referring to an individual, the pronoun should be singular. For example, “It brought him to his feet” or “It brought them to their feet.” Never should it say “it brought him to their feet.”
Last, but not least, let’s talk a little about sentence structure. Try to vary how you begin your sentences so they don’t all start the same. It gets boring real quick. Make sure you have all the necessary components, unless writing in fragments for stylistic reasons (which I tend to do a lot- shame on me.) If a sentence contains more than one idea, make sure you use commas, semi colons, and colons appropriately. Which brings me to the overuse of commas- if there are more than two, consider dividing the sentence into two separate ones.
Although I am far from perfect, these tips have enabled me to approach my editing in a much more efficient manner. When searching, instead of reading line by line, I am better able to identify errors I might have missed on a read through. Searching forces me to look at each sentence individually and question its wording and structure. Search for these issues, correct what you can, then read your work aloud to identify flow issues. When at last you feel you’ve polished your manuscript until it shines, recruit another set of eyes to read over it. I’ll bet they still find something to fix. I know my beta readers always do. Best of luck.
Check out Elle's new book:
Title: Fall of Darkness
Author: Elle Bright
Series: The Darkness Chronicles #1
Publication: July 5th, 2013
Genre: Paranormal Romance
One woman, the fate of the world in her unknowing hands. One man, sworn to destroy her. A love so strong it defies nature. In a world of obsession, deception and betrayal, the line between good and evil fades, but one truth remains absolute. Darkness must fall.
For centuries, werewolf, Dominic Ridolfi, has battled the demons of the night, upholding the sacred pact to protect man from vampires. Yet when sent to destroy the long lost Cacciatori heiress, the vampire prophesied to free her kind from the curse of darkness, he finds himself reluctant to complete his task. The innocent beauty awakens his humanity and Dominic finds himself not in the role of assassin, but savior.
Swept away in a whirlwind romance, Kate loses herself in Dominic’s mysterious world of opulence and seduction. But Dominic has a secret. He knows the truth about Kate’s past, and her future, truths with the power to destroy them both. Only in her dreams does Kate sense the growing darkness within. Dominic saved her once, but can she save herself from the darkness within?
The Book Depository: http://www.bookdepository.com/Fall-Darkness-Elle-Bright/9781490329567