by John Peragine
Completing a draft of a book can feel like you scaled a mountain. You might take a moment to breathe and celebrate. You did it! You are on top, after a difficult climb. And then you notice, as the clouds clear a bit, that you have only scaled the first peak. There are three more even steeper peaks ahead before you can call it DONE! Those triple steep hikes are called editing.
I recommend three different edits completed by three different people. Try to use both men and women and people from different races and backgrounds than your own. They will provide a more diverse edit and provide you a broader perspective on your work.
If you are having the book edited by a traditional press, the process is similar to the experience of self-publishing in which YOU are the publisher.
I don’t recommend skipping any of these edits, because there is nothing worse than a manuscript full of typos, errors, and even plot holes.
Hold on to your britches because the developmental editor is most likely the first person who will be reading your epic work. This edit usually takes the longest because they are looking at your manuscript through the lens of its overall story structure -- plot, characters, scenes, dialog, and more.
Before you open your editorial review document, have a glass of your favorite beverage and remember: this process is meant to help you polish your work. It isn’t personal.
It may feel personal, but it isn’t. The editor doesn’t hate your book. They love your work and want to help you bring the best version of it into the world. Editors have your best interest, so try not to cry and don’t give up.
Remember this mantra: ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE CRAP! (Whenever you doubt that, watch this video from bestselling author Maureen Johnson.)
Pour yourself a second glass of whatever you're drinking and dig in. You have work to do.
Most of the time, you will move to the copy edit after the developmental edit. If your book needed a lot of work you might want to consider a second developmental edit, but try to find a different editor with fresh eyes to do it.
The copy edit is a step closer to perfection. Your grammarian will pull apart your syntax errors and dangling participles. They will point out beautiful things such as, “Don’t use the word large again. You have used it 80 times in this chapter. Treat yourself - buy a thesaurus.” (Taken almost verbatim to a comment I received.)
Once they are finished, your manuscript will be ready to sing. You can send out your Advance Reader copies and begin gathering the tons of compliments and reviews of your Pulitzer worthy masterpiece.
But wait…there is one more peak to conquer…
Many first time authors skip right to this step and believe this is all they need for their edit. If you skip the other two edits, a proofread can be compared to putting lipstick on a pig.
Remember: ALL FIRST DRAFTS ARE CRAP!
I could offer crasser euphemisms to describe what happens when you only have a proofread edit of your work, but I will confidently leave it to your imagination.
A proofread is the time to "cross eyes and dot teas." A good proofreader scans every word, every bit of punctuation, every missing pronoun, and creates a manuscript worthy of being printed on cream-colored paper. (I’m not too fond of white paper; it hurts my eyes. Be kind to your readers: use cream-colored paper.)
If you are self-publishing your book, the process I mention here is an investment. Whenever someone asks me how much it will cost, I do my best impression of Dr. Evil and say, “One million dollars.”
The reality is, there is no standard price. It can vary, and more expensive editors are not always the best. More important than price is the output of the editor. The Writer's Market has a great section that offers market prices for editors and the like.
How do you know they're the best person for the job? Here are some things to consider:
What are your common writing mistakes? (Come on- we won’t judge.) Who do you recommend as an editor, and why? Share the love down in the comments!
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John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPost, Reuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine Enthusiast, Grapevine Magazine, Realtor.com, WineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.
John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, will be released this Fall. https://www.facebook.com/twilightdjinn/
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