Step 5: Edit!

Editing is an arduous task! I lost a lot of sleep wondering if I had used the right word or mistakenly used a word that was similar to the one I was thinking, but not quite right. I’d had friends offer their help, but in the end I was perhaps too much of a control freak to take their advice.

First, you are going to want to read the whole thing cover to cover to check for any obvious mistakes. This might include things like punctuation, but likely you have been correcting those errors as you went along. For this read-through pay attention to the overall story arc. Make sure that it makes sense and that everything is in order.

I get that there are just natural breaks for chapters, but now is a good time to check how long each chapter is. I’ve found about ten pages per chapter (that’s about 4000-5000 words) is a good fit. My first draft had chapter one being fifty pages! That was about 1/5 of the book. Breaking it into smaller pieces just made sense.

Next, I bit the bullet and bought a subscription to Grammarly Premium. It is an online grammar checking service that found hundreds of mistakes that my word processor had not. You upload the files (each chapter individually, there is a 60 page limit to each document) and then the software will flag each error one by one.

Besides checking for spelling there are checks for punctuation, clarity, and even repetitiveness. If you enjoy writing, these are likely things you really want to avoid! I didn’t take all of the advice offered, but having the software flag things that you might have just read over (like having “fare” instead of “fair”) was really helpful. I’d definitely recommend it as a first check on your work.

Just a note on Grammarly, you will see a lot of your formatting missing in the program. That formatting is still there, and will come back once you move the files back into your word processor. So don’t waste time putting in “missing” tabs or breaks.

Grammarly will then allow you to download a corrected copy of your work back to your computer. Be sure to save these files in their own folder and change the names of the documents to indicate that they have been through grammar check.

The third and final step is to use your word processor’s “Read Aloud” function. In Microsoft Word it is under the “Review” tab.

This will take a while, but it will flag many little mistakes (like using the word “it” instead of “in”) that you as the author would skip right over. Listen carefully, and be sure to read along. Whenever something doesn’t sound right go back and correct it. For example, if you used the word “chose” instead of “choose” you’ll hear it.

You are getting close now! Go on to Step 6: Preparing For Publication!

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