I am not a huge fan of editing, I'll admit, but it certainly is not a step I am willing to skip and neither should you. But how do you edit? How do you know something is finally DONE editing?
How do you edit this mess in the first place?
- Go through and line edit. Look for spelling and grammatical errors. Fix them. If you can't see them, ask someone who is a grammar-head to do it for you. Pay them if you must.
- Go through it again, and read it aloud. READ ALOUD! I mean it!! If the words don't flow off the tongue easily, fix it until they do. If you can't read it aloud smoothly, it doesn't read smoothly. Period.
- Go through it again, but this time, look for your theme. What were you trying to SAY with your words? Be sure it is clear throughout. Elude to it early on, but be sure your message comes through clearly.
- Go through it again, looking for your plot. Does it rise and fall like it should? Does every character's PERSONAL plot rise and fall like it should? Even the secondary characters should have a plot line. Write it out if you must in order to see it. Be sure every person (as well as the story) has a beginning, middle, end. Crescendo, resolution. Is it satisfying? Fix it.
- When you're sure your plot, theme, grammar, and spelling are good, go through it at least one more time to catch the little things you missed the first 18 times through. There is always something to catch. A typo, a word that is a word but is the WRONG word for the moment. (to, too, two... your, you're, yore, etc)
- When you are satisfied and cannot see any more issues within your own work, this is the time to pass it on to others to read and critique. Even if you don't agree with them on their notes, take them into consideration. Their opinions matter. They are, after all, on par with your readers later. If enough of them say the same thing, consider it heavily.
In the end, the decision of what to DO with their notes is yours, of course. But don't be hasty. Fix what needs fixing, and then go over it again. Read it aloud again.
How do you know when it's done?
- Well, to be honest, nothing is ever truly done being edited. There is always something that could be tweaked and fixed and made better. There's always something you can do more on. But there is a time to stop, even though a thing is not 1000% perfect, and it is important to know when that is.
- When you can read through it and are happy with how it reads, feel you have been clear in your theme, and your plot lines are right where they should be... when you read through it aloud and nothing trips you up, when you can find nothing else to fix and you have considered outside opinions, it is time to send your baby off.
Well, this all depends on what you plan to do!
- Do you want to go the traditional publishing route? Find an agent. Don't try and send your stuff off to different publishing houses yourself. Get an agent and let them fence the project for you. That's what they're there for.
I have not bothered finding my own agent, so I'm not the one to direct you in this path. But there are plenty of posts out there by people who can! Research! Scott Eagan has a pretty awesome blog about this side of things. Namely the finding an agent bit.
- Do you want to self publish? Format for e-book reading, or have someone do it for you. Design a cover or have one designed for you, and don't forget about copyright laws with photos you might be using. Set yourself up on Createspace if you want to publish one at a time, etc.
I know it seems like a lot of work. I'm not going to lie to you. It is. It's tedious. It's boring. It's infuriating. It's frustrating. It might make you want to quit. If you can't hack it, be prepared to pay someone else to do all this for you. It will not be cheap. But it is necessary to do a thorough edit if you want your work to be readable, or in any way good.
So! Get to it!