I’ve just completed the final copy, line edit and polish of a manuscript. My head aches from intense concentration, my eyeballs are red, spongy blobs that feel as though they’ve been run over a cheese grater and my shoulders will require lengthy yoga sessions in the hot room to iron out all the kinks.
But it’s done. It’s finished.
There are so many ways you can edit a manuscript and everyone will have their own quirks. I’m an ‘edit as you go’ writer, then I edit it another 30 zillion times and finally read out loud as a final polish. Editing can take me a good three months on a 90K plus manuscript. But that’s okay, because that is my process, and it has to be ‘just right’.
This time, my editing process evolved to use two devices at the same time, like having a double screen computer. I uploaded my MS to the Kindle App on my tablet, and used my laptop for the word version.
It was surprisingly easy to do, considering I’m a person who usually completes technical things ‘by accident’ simply because following instructions irritates me.
The good news is that it was a fast and effective way to edit. Here’s how:
1. Upload the manuscript to a Kindle App by following this link. (Even if you don’t regularly read on a Kindle, it’s worth downloading the free app to a tablet or phone just for this purpose. Other e-reader apps, such as iBooks, can be loaded on your iPad or iPhone or on the newer Mac machines). Calibre is another free e-reader option for PCs and laptops.
2. Open your manuscript (MS) on your work device – laptop, tablet, whatever it is you edit your work. Enable track changes – if you’re working in Word or its equivalent on a Mac.
3. Read your MS from your Kindle out loud. Reading out loud is the most brilliant way to hear your errors, clumsy sentences, alliterations, etc. By reading out loud, you will hear things that you can’t see when you read. Yes, you will feel like a total dick reading to yourself, and you may be reaching for the Strepsils afterwards, but it is so, so, so, so worth it.
4. By reading the MS on your Kindle, you are seeing it exactly how it will appear once it’s published. Therefore, any formatting errors, double spaces, strange indentations and other annoying glitches, will be identified immediately. As you read and spot errors or bits that need further polishing, fix them up in the working document as you go. It’s the perfect time to make alterations as your mind is absorbed in the story- you are in the zone. If you aren’t in the zone, have another cup of coffee or tea, or wine and attempt to get in the zone.
5. If it’s a structural edit that’s required (rather than a line or copy edit) make notes so that you can play with it later, although hopefully by this stage your MS should be structurally sound.
6. If you’re in a position to do so – i.e. have no looming deadlines – let your MS sit for a while. Get someone else to read it for you. By this stage writers tend to lose objectivity in their own work, whereas a fresh set of eyes will soon identify anything you’ve missed.
I’ve always read my drafts out loud and it never ceases to amaze me the amount of mistakes that have made it through 30 gazillion edits, only to be picked up in this phase. Using these two techniques – reading the draft aloud and reading it in e-book format – made my final polish so much more effective and efficient, and hopefully they will also bring you some happy editing juju.