Australian eBook Publisher’s Guide to Self-Editing

Take time

When it comes to self-editing the most important thing you can give yourself is time. Time to step away from your manuscript, so when you return you are looking at it with fresh eyes.

Kinds of editing

Before you get down into the nitty gritty of your words, you must first look at the book as a whole. Structural editing is where you can cut and move whole chapters, and paragraphs, identify any issues in plot and pace and weed out any unnecessary characters or inconsistencies.

To create the best flow of work, try writing down the outlines of each chapter on a sticky note and rearranging them for the best fit.

Copy-edit (or line by line)
Once you are happy with the outline of your book you can now go deeper into your story. This is where you analyse your sentences and clarify details. Adjust punctuation and alter your work line-by-line. This is the place to make sure you have used consistent spelling (place and people names are common slip ups) and have used the right form of language (US English or UK/AU English), and check facts.

This is the absolute last stage. If you are still finding inconsistencies at this stage, you need to keep going with your copyedit. Proofreading is simply spotting typos and incorrect punctuation. A tip to proofreading is to read your words backwards to spot typos. Reading your work aloud will also you help look at your text word by word, and avoid missing errors.Look out for confusable words (their/they’re/there, boarder/border, stationery/stationary affect/effect etc)

Using a grammar and spellchecker will certainly aid in your proofreading, but not all errors are picked up. You MUST read through your manuscript and not simply rely only on your grammar and spellchecker program. Proofreading Checklist

  • Verb tense (is your narrative in the past or present? Does each sentence agree with this? See: He had the ballOR he has the ball – these are not interchangeable)
  • Spelling
  • Confusable words
  • Grammar and Punctuation (misplaced commas, quotation marks etc.)
  • Voice (point of view)
  • All sentences are finished (HINT: read your writing aloud and these errors will spot themselves)
  • Formatting (consistency in indentations, paragraphs, spacing, font and text size)
  • Look for repetition (do you have a favourite word that pops up more than it ought?)
  • Chapters (check they are correctly numbered/titled)
  • Single space after a full stop (the double space is an old convention left over from typewriting days)

Australian eBook Publisher provide structural, line-by-line, and proofreading services for your manuscript. Whether your goal is to submit your manuscript to a publisher or self publish, either online or in print, AEP can help you get your book up to snuff.

Read more about AEP’s editing services:

Things to look out for

Your writing should always lend itself to action. Try and avoid more than four lines in a row of pure description or information. Let your characters speak for themselves.

Point of View
First Person
I, me, we, us

First person narrative is from the direct point of view of your character. If you have multiple points of view, make sure you are clear in your text as to who is speaking. Consider a paragraph break or a new chapter for changes in perspective if you struggle with this.

In first person narration of a fiction, the author will enter the mind of the character and tell the story from the point of view of that character, who will then relate the events from a fairly restricted ‘bird’s eye view’. The particular standpoint becomes the literearypoint of view and the narration must remain within the range of that person’s first-hand knowledge. The first person narrator can only relate those events in which he participates. (No reporting what goes on in other people’s minds, or behind closed doors!)

Third Person
He, them, she, her, they etc

Third person is told from the narrators perspective. The levels of distance one can have in third person can vary depending on the needs of the story. Your narrator could be all-knowing and follow many different characters and know their thoughts and reasons behind their actions, or, your narrator could be very close to your main character, following them only and only knowing their thoughts and actions.

When editing, make sure your point of view is clear and does not confuse the reader.

Show Don’t Tell

Creating lively, striking images is an important part of the writer’s craft. Active verbs generate vigorous prose. Compare: He was not afraid of the dog (which tells us something in timid, negative terms) and He strode up to the dog and glared back at it (which shows his contempt for the dog in a robust positive statement).

They were pleased to see us home safe and sound. This tells, unemotionally, what would could be made into a more evocative statement by showing what happened: They rushed to meet us with outstretched arms and tears of joy.

Common Faults and How to Fix Them
Too many adjectives and adverbs. (The writing is flowery.) Too many relative pronouns. (The writing is laboured. Ask yourself: can I do without this adjective, this adverb, this pronoun?

Authorial Intrusion
There should be no extra information that your characters wouldn’t be aware of, this is covered more in Point of View

Lack of variation in sentence structure
Writing immediately becomes more dynamic and interesting when you vary the length and complexity of your sentences.

Check that sentences are not linked with a comma when a conjunction or semi-colon would be appropriate, or when it would be better to stop, and start again with a new sentence.

Overly long sentences (more than three lines is a good identifier) are usually very confusing and your reader may need to read it over more than once to understand it. Avoid these sentences by shortening sentences, adding correct punctuation (dashes, commas and semicolons) or simply by stopping your sentence and starting a new one.

Punctuating dialogue
There are many wrong ways of punctuating dialogue, just as there are possible variations of the right way. The rules are simple, yet they too often fall victim to inconsistencies and a good deal of guesswork.

Rule 1:ALL words in the quotation, and ALL punctuation relevant to it, must be enclosed in the inverted commas, for example: “Where are you going?” he asked.

Rule 2: Inverted commas, whether singles or doubles, must be used in sets or pairs. There is one exception to this ruled, and it applies to long speeches that require more than on paragraph. The inverted commas are placed at the beginning of each new paragraph, but at the end only the final paragraph.

Rule 3: The quote must always begin with a capital letter.

Rule 4: A comma must not be followed by a capital unless for a proper noun.

Single quotes are preferred in most modern publications, with double quote reserved for material quoted within a quotation.

Sometimes it is necessary to break a quotation at some point. Rule 1 applies: ‘There’s no place like home,’ said John, ‘even if it’s falling down!’

Overly Passive Prose
Passive voice is when the subject of the sentence (in this instance, John) has an action done to them.

Passive: The yellow ball was thrown to John by Sam.
Active: John threw the yellow ball to Sam.

Letting your subject do the acting makes your text active. Active voice immediately makes your text more exciting.

Active: Jenny strode boldly into the room, pulling the curtains open and brightening the room.
Passive: The room was brightened by Jenny, who opened the curtains when she strode into the room.
Remember, though, that active text isn’t always necessary. In this example, using passive voice hides the guilt more thoroughly than active voice.

Passive: The glass on the counter was nudged by my bag, causing it to fall on the ground and break.
Active: My bag nudged the glass on the counter and it fell to the ground, breaking immediately.

Questions to ask yourself

  • Is the title attention-grabbing? Could I find a more relevant one?
  • Have I brought the reader quickly enough to the main action or theme of my story?
  • Have I tried to show instead of just telling?
  • Have I given too many little details? Have I repeated information for no apparent reason? (Note: There are times when it is necessary to seed in certain information more than once if that detail is vital to plot outcomes. A reader may set a book aside for a time, and forget some pertinent clue, such as a narrative ‘hook’.)
  • Have I made sufficient use of dialogue? Have I ‘tested’ the dialogue by reading it aloud?
  • And have I applied good practices in syntax and usages?

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