There are plenty of times when it makes sense to pay for a professional editor. But there are also many occasions when knowing how to edit a book on your own can come in handy.
Table of contents
- Why should you know how to edit a book?
- What is essential to know when editing a book?
- The process of how to edit a book yourself
- Expert tip
- Is it a good idea to edit a book yourself?
- How do you know when you are done editing a book?
- Articles related to editing a book
- Knowing how to edit a book yourself can make your writing stand out!
So if you’re a first-time author, or you don’t love the idea of paying for an editor for your manuscript, there is the option to turn pro and make all the edits for your book! It’s actually not as complicated as you’d think, and anyone can do it with some practice and know-how.
Why should you know how to edit a book?
There are a few pretty great reasons why you should learn about editing a book, including your budget and editing experience. Let's explore these reasons in more detail.
First of all, your own preference may be to handle edits on your own. You may like your own editing style and not be sure about bringing in a new person to cut out paragraphs and change things around.
Or maybe you really, really love certain aspects of your book. There may be chapters that you want to leave unchanged or specific details that you think an editor might remove and you want to keep. All this can make the idea of knowing how to edit your book more attractive.
To gain experience
If you love writing but want to try out editing, this is a great opportunity. Maybe you’ll have a career as a book editor someday, and this is a good step in the right direction.
You may also not aspire to be an editor but still want the experience of learning how to edit a book. It may be helpful to know the basics for any future books or articles you write, not only to make the submission and publishing process easier but also to make sure your work is polished before others read it.
Writing a book is time-consuming, and you don’t necessarily make money upfront. So you may not have money to spare to hire someone.
If you’re on a tight budget, making the edits yourself may be preferable. It will cost you some more time, but you can save on expenses.
What is essential to know when editing a book?
There are quite a few things to know when learning how to edit a book, including an understanding of the writing flow and being objective with your own work.
It's not only the obvious parts, like basic grammar and fact-checking.
In addition to these, you’ll also need to have a good understanding of how to organize a story. It should flow, and the timeline should make sense to anyone reading it, not just you.
And beyond this, there’s the most difficult part of editing your own work. You’ll need to be willing to make whatever changes are necessary to make the book truly great.
This will require the skill of being able to view your writing as if someone else wrote it so you don't allow your opinion to take over. Using this technique will help you know when something adds to the story and when it doesn’t.
Even though there is a lot to know, it becomes easy when you follow a simple process for editing a book.
The process of how to edit a book yourself: 8 Steps
It’s time to begin editing! Following these steps in this order is the best approach to creating a book that flows well, doesn’t have errors, and is simply a great read.
1. Read your book
You should start by reading your book. But instead of thinking of yourself as the writer, try to read from the perspective of those that will read your book.
Ask yourself questions as you do this, such as, would you recommend your book to others if you were a reader? What makes the story interesting? Where does the writing lose focus?
Make notes as you read and try to focus on the overall theme of the book. Is your writing making it simple to understand your main points? Be sure that the idea is clear.
2. Make sure the writing flows, edit unnecessary information
Now that you’ve read through your book once, it’s time to do so again! It's more detailed than the first read, though. It may seem tedious, but it's all part of how to edit a book so you don't miss anything.
This time, you’ll examine things more carefully, looking for anything that doesn’t make sense. Here are some ideas of what to look for:
The plot is the order that things happen in your story. This is something to be especially careful of when editing!
What you want to look for is that everything flows.
For example, if your story includes a scene where a character visits California, then they should not be discussing how their trip went in another scene prior to the visit.
Make sure things are in the correct order so you don’t confuse the readers.
Read through each scene in your story. Does the dialogue flow? Are all questions answered?
Most of all, does it advance the story somehow, and does it use enough detail? You need to cut out any scenes that are not helping the story to continue. Even if they’re interesting, if they aren’t relevant, they take away from the book.
Improving characters is a big part of how to edit your book. Notice as you read how characters are introduced and described.
Does the writing accurately explain the character? How much information is given versus left out for the reader to figure out as they go? You need to strike a balance between over-explaining and not giving enough information about the characters.
Your characters need to have goals and be believable by having weaknesses along with positive characteristics.
As you read through each page, think about inconsistencies. Is anything not making sense?
This could be something like a date or a fact, but may also be a scene that seems out of place, a character whose story isn’t explained well, or something that is mentioned that doesn’t line up with the rest of the story.
Also, check for any places where the wrong character names, places, or dates are mentioned.
Remember to ensure that the plot is logical and that there are no contradictions.
3. Fact check
Fact-checking is important for making sure your book is accurate and that readers can take it seriously. You may find this especially important for non-fiction or historical books.
Take the time to research each source that you use and make sure the information is correct. Be especially mindful of any historical events or statistics.
It’s also important to properly cite information. You’ll need a reference page in your book, so keep track of all the information you use and where it came from.
4. Correct grammar and punctuation
If the grammar isn’t correct, it distracts from your writing. You may choose to correct grammar and punctuation page by page or chapter by chapter.
As you look through the writing, be mindful of sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, paragraphs beginning with a new thought, and spelling.
Rather than trying to rely only on yourself to catch every mistake, this is a good time to use a program to help you or a writing tool. Grammarly is a great program that will check your work for grammatical errors, tone, and even plagiarism.
5. Put the book into the right format
Formatting is a big part of how to edit a book. Your readers will expect the book to look like a book with a title page, table of contents, introduction, chapters, etc.
To format your book correctly, remember that you’ll need to include page numbers, correct spacing, and the right size for the text, in addition to other things. The goal is to make your book appear orderly and organized so it doesn’t distract from the writing.
You can use a formatting program to help you, such as Atticus. It can make the formatting process easier and less confusing.
6. Read the book aloud
After you’ve made the initial edits, you should read your book out loud. Why? Hearing your book may help you to catch errors and inconsistencies that you didn’t realize were there before.
It helps you to be more in tune with your words.
If you want, you can do this in one sitting and correct errors as you go. The advantage of this is that you’ll read your story as a whole and get a better understanding of the overall picture.
But if you don’t want to read an entire book aloud at once, you can also break this into one chapter at a time. Or you can read a few at a time if you want.
Reading a little at a time may be the better method. It may help you to not get too tired and make mistakes.
If you want to be extremely thorough with your edits, you might read aloud a little at a time and then in one sitting. (Though you may need several days to do this.) That way, you won’t miss anything.
7. Ask others to read your book
Ask a couple of people that you trust to give an honest opinion to read your book. They can make notes as they read so they remember to tell you all their thoughts about the writing.
After they do this, get their take on the book.
What questions do they have? Was there anything that was unclear? What do they believe are the main ideas of the book?
Make sure that you address any points they bring up in the writing. And it’s very important that the main ideas you are trying to convey are obvious to the readers. If not, take the time to edit some more and add more to the book if needed.
8. Make the final edits and, after some time, do a final read through
All of this is quite a process, isn’t it? Now that you’ve corrected grammar and inconsistencies, read your book aloud, and asked others to read it, you should have a pretty good idea of whether your book is ready for readers or not.
Take the time to fix any mistakes and make final edits based on the information you’ve gained. Don’t rush this, and be sure that your book is as polished as possible.
After making the final edits, set your book aside for a time. Try waiting at least a week. It allows your mind to rest so the writing will feel fresh again.
After some time, do a final read-through of your book to be sure that you’ve caught all the errors. Make small edits as needed.
Now, you've finished editing a book, and it's finally ready to be published! Congratulations are certainly in order, and then it’s time to get your book out there for readers.
As you edit your book, read through it from the lens of someone who has no background on your topic. This will help you determine how well you are conveying your points. Be sure to get other eyes on your work too!
Is it a good idea to edit a book yourself?
Yes. Not only can you save money but editing a book yourself can be a great way to fine-tune your work. Be sure to follow the approach of checking your writing flow, grammar, and punctuation, confirming facts and the other key tips highlighted in this article.
How do you know when you are done editing a book?
A great way to know when you are done editing a book is to keep a checklist of key actions and edits you need to make. As you work through and complete this checklist, you'll know how close you are to completing your edits. Upon completion of your edits and checklist, you can determine if you need to add any additional checks or review your work one more time.
Articles related to editing a book
Enjoyed this article on how to edit a book yourself? Check out these related articles:
Knowing how to edit a book yourself can make your writing stand out!
Becoming an expert at editing your own work can help you to be a more successful writer. After all, writing that is polished and well-edited makes for an interesting read with no distractions. Not only will your readers love it, but you can have confidence that your writing will stand out.
Take the time to learn how to edit your book, as well as learn other writing skills, such as SEO editing, that you may use in the future. You’ll be glad you did!