How do you know when your book is really done?
We’ve been receiving a lot of emails about how to edit a book, when to start and what to do.
Most people are asking the same question:
“How do I know when my book is finished?”
Here are some suggestions on how to edit your book and hopefully will help answer some of your questions.
After you finish your first draft, read your manuscript once by yourself. The purpose of this step is not to edit but to get a fresh perspective of your book. In many cases, the reason you find it hard to go back over your work is that it makes you doubt yourself and your writing. It may be that you don’t feel satisfied with your work and worry about how it will be received. Whatever the emotion, take the time to work through the steps provided here and I can assure you that your book will be one you will be delighted with upon completion.
Once you have read through your book as a reader you are now ready to begin your first edit.
You have one basic job in this edit: make sure the book says exactly what you want it to say.
As you read every sentence, ask yourself these basic questions:
What point am I trying to make in this sentence?
Is it as simple as possible and clear to understand?
Is it as short as possible?
Did I leave anything necessary out to get my point across?
Have these questions at the forefront of your mind when you read each paragraph and then throughout each chapter. It’s OK if you need to rewrite certain passages again, that’s a normal part of the first edit process. This is the stage where you’re preparing your manuscript for the final stages, so change as much as you want. At this point, don’t focus too much on spelling, grammar or punctuation. That happens in the second edit.
Here are some things to look out for as you complete your first edit:
Read your book from chapter one to the end. It enables you to get a feel for how your book will be read by your reader. Make notes anywhere the plot seems to get lost or distracted.
Keep checking your book outline to see you’ve followed it consistently through your story.
Is there that one scene that still doesn’t seem quite perfect? If it bothers you, it’s going to bother the reader.
Have you checked that, wherever possible, you’re ‘showing’ and not ‘telling’?
Look really hard at your opening, you need to grab your reader within the first few pages, what doesn’t draw them in to want to know more may lead them to put your book down, never to be picked up again.
Do you pull your readers right into your story?
Have you created conflict and chapter-ending hooks?
Have you included emotional responses for characters that are guaranteed to touch the reader as well?
Read the end of each chapter, do you leave the reader with a cliff hanger that wants them to turn the page and start the next chapter immediately?
Do you compel your readers to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next?
Are the characters believable throughout your book?
Make sure your chapters flow from one to the next. Look to see if your paragraphs are clearly connected with no holes in your story.
Check the notes you made while writing your first draft. If there’s research you need to do to correct facts and authenticity, do it now, and insert them into the appropriate places in the book.
Check each page and chapter for any repetition of words that will stand out.
Are all your sentences the same length, do you remember to use the full stop instead of continuously using a comma? Are there any words you don’t need? Are your sentences too wordy?
Check each page for adjectives and adverbs. Check the number of modifiers—both adverbs and adjectives—doesn’t overwhelm.
Check for any overuse of character names, especially in dialogue.
Are you using jargon or local slang that your audience might not understand?
Have you used any of your favourite words repetitively?
Remove clichés and replace them with your own descriptive phrases.
If you’ve changed a character’s name, make sure you’ve not left any instances of the former name.
Have you eliminated any occurrences of passive voice?
Do all of your subjects and verbs agree? Do all of your pronouns and subjects agree?
Have you checked your usage of “to/two/too” “your/ you’re,” and other commonly confused words?
Go through your book one word, sentence, paragraph and page at a time.
You’re nearly done.
Check there is only one space after punctuation.
Now check for typos: It is easy for typos to be overlooked by the author, as we tend to see what we want to see. For this reason, you need to be careful not to read ahead of what is on the page.
Check that commas, full stops, apostrophes, dashes, speech marks and quotation marks are correct and consistent.
Make sure that all words that should have capital letters have capital letters. Conversely, check that all words that should be in lower case are in lower case.
If you think that a sentence could be phrased in a better way, rewrite it.
Also, word consistency is important. If a word is spelt with a hyphen then it should be spelt with a hyphen all the way through your book.
As a writer, you will constantly be challenged to make decisions about how to construct your sentences and paragraphs. Always be consistent.
The next step is to read the rough draft again, one final time.
This time don’t just hear the words in your head, actually speak them out loud. I mean this literally. You will hear the flow of your book differently, if it doesn’t flow smoothly you will clearly hear it with your own voice.
Finally (sigh!) ask yourself,
Have I finished?
What matters at some point is that you stop editing and put the book out. If you’ve reached this point, and are editing too much, then you need to STOP. There are professionals who can edit your manuscript and nurture your words over the line.
That’s what WE are here for.
If you have completed your first edit and read through again then now you’re ready to have your book professionally reviewed by an editor.
If you would like further assistance with your final edit in preparation for publishing please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Give yourself the gift of the best book you could have possibly written. The authors we work with are so much happier after editing than before, that final polish makes all the difference.
You’ll be glad you invested in a professional edit because every writer needs that one final look over their book by a professional before it’s released for the world to read.