Congratulations! After three marriages, two divorces, childbirth, your first colonoscopy, an appendectomy, and a pandemic, at long last, you’ve completed your manuscript. Now, the decisions you face get harder. Let’s begin with the most important. Do you really need to edit your masterpiece?
The wise answer is yes-hell, yes. Don’t shake your head and think you’re safe because you thought to install all the popular online grammar checkers, such as Grammarly, WhiteSmoke, and Outwrite, on your computer, which are undoubtedly helpful tools. The National Spelling Bee you won as a child made you famous then, but it won’t help you now. And the fact that you diagram sentences to fall asleep rather than count sheep only makes you different and maybe a bit weird, not exempt. Come on, am I the only one who does that?
Once you’ve grasped that the process is necessary, you should know it isn’t easy. Stephen King, writer of numerous famous supernatural, suspense, crime, science-fiction novels, and more compared editing a book to “murdering children.” He went on to say, “it’s so painful to cut into your hard-earned story, sometimes eliminating whole passages or plot points.”
Perhaps after reading this, you’ve decided to try your hand at self-editing. Seasoned writers, such as multi-genre English author Neil Gaiman, who wrote The Graveyard Book that won him both the Carnegie and Newbery medals, gave his advice. He said to put it down until you can read it with new eyes as if you’ve never read it before.
When you look at your work as a reader instead of a writer, you can tackle mechanical and grammatical issues in your text and then move on to larger, potential problems. By this, I mean character arcs and motivations, themes, and plot points. Finding a plot hole can be like pulling a small piece of yarn on a sweater, the entire thing can start to unravel.
Another way to go is with Beta Readers or critique groups. They can provide the objective feedback you’re searching for and offer ways to enrich your manuscript. You will, however, need to develop a thick skin. They won’t be your sweet Aunt Alice pinching your cheek and baking you cookies. They’ll tell you like it is, line by line, through your life’s work. So, get serious, summon your inner rhinoceros, and listen.
You may consider a professional edit. This means that you hire an educated, uninvolved third party. It’s similar to how you would choose a therapist, who you may also need before this process is over. That’s just a thought, not a requirement.
Self-edit, Beta Readers, or a professional, it’s your choice. But really, absolutely, without a doubt, pick one. You spent a great deal of time creating your masterpiece. It deserves more than a swift kick from the nest.
Have an opinion? Let me know what you think.