How I Self-Edited My Book (+my tips and advice)
During release week I've mentioned the editing process several times, and I promised to share how I self-edited my novel with you at some point this week. If you're wanting to self-publish and are curious as to whether self-editing might be a good option, then today's blog post is for you!
Before we get started, don't forget to check out today's blog tour post! Zielle at Write in the Dark Blog will be doing a book spotlight of Free. Be sure to show her and her beautiful blog some love!
If you prefer videos to blog posts, you can also check out today's YouTube video.
So, let's start off with the basics. WHY did I choose to self-edit?
I was confident in my proofreading skills. My high school English curriculum had an emphasis on editing skills and had us doing editing excersises on a regular basis. Since I was still in high school at the time I was starting to edit Free, that information was very much still fresh in my mind.
I was on a budget. While this is less important, since I knew I could do a thourough job of proofreading, it didn't make any sense to hire an editor to do it when I could save the money to spend somewhere else.
I knew I didn't have to do the ENTIRE thing myself. I wanted to get the advice of others, even if those "others" weren't paid editors.
So, I knew WHY I wanted to self-edit. Then began the process of learning the self-editing process itself. I started out with the proofreading, but quickly realized it would be best to tackle the "big picture" story editing first. At this point, I read it to my mom and we began working on some issues with the story itself. For example, we changed how the main character got to the place she needed to be for most of the story; and we also tweaked some character interactions and dialogue to be more appropriate for the historical setting.
After reading through the story once with her, I made some adjustments and printed off the manuscript for the first time. Then my mom sat down and made editing notes in the printed-off manuscript herself. This process took her a few months, and I am beyond grateful to her for doing it! I truly believe the book is what it is because of her, which brings us to an important lesson I learned from self-editing:
Just because you self-edit does not mean you have to do EVERYTHING yourself.
You should always, always get other people's eyes on your work, because they will be able to see things that you, being so close to the story, couldn't see. For example, there were several places in Free where I thought the dialogue came off one way, but when my mom read it, she explained to me that it sounded like I was trying to say something completely different.
At this point, we had returned to the point where it was my turn to do the editing. I took a red pen to the manuscript, making adjustments that were guided by what my mom had written and discussed with me. I then input these changes into the word document.
At this point, Free had been in the editing stage for about two years, and most of the story editing was taken care of. It was time to move on to the little details. I spent some time making some proofreading adjustments (at this point, it was the right place in the editing process to be doing the proofreading). Here and there I also tweaked the character's outfits, dialogue, and buzz phrases as I incorporated some final historical research.
Honestly, I kept on finessing until a month or two before release. But at that point, several other people had already read the manuscript, and the feedback I had gotten was almost totally clear of comments on editing-type mistakes. Even though, as a writer, it's hard to ever call your manuscript "done", I was confident that I had a solidly-edited piece of work to put out into the world. I could release Free knowing it was well-edited and well-proofread, even though a professional editor had never laid eyes on it.
I learned many things throughout this process, so I'll try to sum it up with a few tips for anyone else looking to self-edit:
Story edit first, then proofread.
Don't rush. Your first book will probably take you the longest, and that's ok.
Identify your strengths. For example, I knew proofreading was my strength.
Get at least several other people's feedback. Whether it's family, friends, or beta readers, getting lots of perspectives on your work will help you catch mistakes you otherwise might have missed.
Know that you'll know when it's done. It's hard to know when to call your work finished, but there will reach a place where you know you're coming to the end of the editing process. You've made the story the best it can be, and now you can let it go into the world with confidence.
While self-editing can be scary, when done well it can yield just as quality of results as traditional editing. If you keep the above tips in mind, I think you'll be well on your way to polishing your manuscript into a finished piece you can be proud of. ✨