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How To Edit a Book

If you’ve finally finished your book, then congratulations. It’s a long and difficult creative process that not every writer can accomplish. That’s the good news.

Now here’s the bad news: you’re still just getting started. Once the first draft has been completed, you’re ready to know how to edit a book properly.

Editing a book might seem like a simple process, but it can be a lengthy project that can cause a lot of frustration. By following these steps, you may not be able to remove that frustration, but you’ll be able to limit it as you make progress through the next drafts your book will experience.

Part #1: The Second Draft

Once you’ve completed your first draft, it’s time to start the editing process. This begins the second draft. In the second draft, you’re looking to correct major plot holes and narrative issues that cause an inconsistent reading experience.

For example: If your story is supposed to take place in Paris, but you have your characters visiting locations in the United States without having them travel there in some way, then this would need to be corrected.

The second draft also takes your overall plot into consideration. Does the plot make sense in the overall story arc of the book? Are there places where readers could be surprised by what happens instead of being allowed to put the pieces together on their own?

For the second draft, the overall goal is to create consistency from a big picture perspective. You may catch some major grammatical or spelling errors during this draft as well, which are important to fix, but it isn’t the primary purpose of this edit.

Part #2: The Third Draft

Once you’ve gone from start to finish through your manuscript and are confident that you’ve created a consistent story, then you’re ready to transition to the third draft. This is the process of going through your book, line by line, looking for grammatical errors, typos, and character consistency.

This can be a lengthy process. You’re working to improve the rhythm of each sentence while maintaining your overall voice as a writer. You will be checking to make sure that your character’s hair color doesn’t suddenly change from blonde to black. Backstory elements will also need to be checked for consistency.

For example: If your character is 40 years old and the book takes place in the present day, then having a flashback for your character that occurs in 1935 will not make sense to the reader.

The best way to perform the edit for the third draft is to print out a hard copy of your manuscript. Then you can mark up any changes that you happen to notice as you read your story, line by line, for future correction.

Your goal is to eliminate as many errors as possible. Once you’ve finished correcting each line, make the adjustments within your root file and then print out an updated copy of your manuscript.

Part #3: The Fourth Draft

The fourth draft of an edit is the one that most authors fail to do. That’s because you will need to read your entire story out loud. It doesn’t matter who hears your story during this process. If your dog or cat will listen to you, then so be it. You can read to the wall, to your reflection in the mirror, or sit in your most comfortable chair and read to the surrounding air.

The reason why this draft requires you to read out loud is because it will be the final polish on your book. Many errors can be missed if you’re trying to read a book on paper or on a screen when you’ve been so involved with the creative and editing process up to this point. Reading aloud changes how the brain processes the words and this helps you to catch many more errors.

When you catch an error that needs to be corrected, then mark it on the manuscript. It may be helpful to read your story to someone so they can look for potential issues that you may have missed when performing the editing work on the second draft.

It’s a lengthy edit for sure. Depending on the length of the book, it could take upwards of a month to complete. It will also help you remove a majority of the errors that may remain in the manuscript.

Knowing how to edit a book will help your manuscript create a professional first impression. Errors will always creep their way into a story, even with the best editors. If you follow these methods, you’ll be able to reduce the amount of errors that are in your book without any outside help.

Melissa G Wilson

Melissa has been a leader in the book writing, publishing and marketing arena for the past two decades. To date, she has helped more than 100 thought leaders write, publish and market their books. Her clients include executives such as Dan Weinfurter a seven-time Inc 500 winner and Orlando Ashford, President of Holland Cruise Lines.

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