When in the midst of writing a book, I like to go back and read what I’ve already written. I usually do this at the beginning of each writing session. I read the previous chapter or two to set the stage again in my mind, and it allows me to do some early proofreading.
Here are my next steps:
1. Read the book on my computer from chapter one to the end. This is my first full pass, and I’ll usually catch typos and missing words/commas/quotation marks. Sentences are sometimes reworked. Details might be wrong from one part of the book to the next, and I try to fix all of this on the first pass.
2. Wait a day or two and read it again. I still read the book on my computer, but I read out loud this time. I read as if I’m reading for the audio book version. Laugh if you must, but I pay closer attention when I read as if someone is listening. Reading out loud is a good way to find all of the things that sound “clunky” or don’t portray normal speech patterns.
3. Notebook time. I make a list of unnecessary/overused words and the number of times I used them. Here are a few that are troublesome for me in my current project: that (343), just (78), very (101); the list is long. Other words are: fact, quite, truly, try to, shocked, surprised, a lot, really, pretty, put, place, suddenly, took, looked, time, walked, and there are more.
This is the step that takes the longest. I look at every use of each word. Most of the usage is fine in its context, but if I can eliminate or trade out the word, I do. I write with simple words, and if I change a word, it is usually to another simple word. It is during this step that I am most likely to rewrite a sentence.
4. Print a hard copy. When I go back to editing in a few minutes, this is where I am in my current project. The book is printed, and I will now read it as if I had purchased it and am reading for my own enjoyment. Errors, poor sentence structure, and lack of commas seem to jump off the page at this stage.
When I reach the end of the book, this is when I’m usually surprised and think, “If someone else had written this, and I had bought it, I would have really liked it.” And I think that’s important! I’ve read that we should write to please ourselves, and our work is more likely then to be pleasing to others.
5. Two more copies are printed – this time for my beta readers. Both copies come back fairly quickly with changes, but there usually aren’t too many. I try to leave the book alone while they read, and then I make their corrections on my master – or do some rewriting based on their suggestions.
6. Time to print one last copy and read the book backwards one page at a time. This way, I don’t get caught up in the story, and I tend to read individual sentences and paragraphs with an eye for anything we may have missed.
When I’m satisfied we’ve done the best we could, and the words aren’t macaronic, my book is ready to publish.
Do you do your own editing? Is your process similar? Am I missing any important steps?
Edited to add reader tips from comments below:
From Book Writing Tips: “If it is possible and you can, after your 1st step which is to read the book in your computer from chapter one to the end, why not leave it for a much longer time like 15 days or a month perhaps? In this way, you get a clear head and you get to read the book as if you’re not the one who wrote it.”
From Dianne Gray: “When you read it on your computer can I suggest you change the font. Enlarge it and change it to something you’re not used to looking at – I find I pick up a lot of mistakes this way.”