Dear Thrive: How Do I Edit My Book?

Welcome to Thrive! A weekly advice column for creatives and the generally confused.

Dear Thrive,
I’m finishing a book right now. How do I go about editing it?

-In It to Win It

Dear Win It,

Congratulations on arriving to the editing stage! I hope you celebrate with a glass of wine and a couple of nights off from the grind before you turn to editing. Editing can be a real nightmare, especially if you try to go it alone. Actually, definitely do not go it alone. You need insight from outside sources to tighten up your tale. You don’t need to go crazy, too many opinions will bog you down, but get a varied enough group to complement one another. Here’s what you can do:

You First You’re the first editor, no matter your writing style. Some people choose to perfect as they go, others prefer to vomit magic and then go back and scrub it up a few times. Either way, make sure you’re the first to go through your draft. Leave it alone for a couple weeks (or even longer if you can bear it) before going through it, so your language and structure and story line don’t seem so familiar. You’ll catch more this way. If you can, print out the book and make edits by hand, it just helps freshen the mind. Make these edits before the next step.

Your People Next Next send it to a handful of “readers” that you trust. You may already have a group you send all your writing to, or you may have no one. Construct a diversified group. If possible: someone who reads a ton, someone who writes, someone who loves a genre opposite yours, someone blunt, someone gentle. Each one of these people will come back with valuable notes and feedback even if the gentle one just says, “I loved it!” You may need that ego boost. Make these edits before the next step.

Get Professional Definitely seek a professional to help you take the book to the next level. Be honest about your budget and your needs. If you feel the story is structurally sound, maybe just go for a proofreader. If your story tripped all your readers up and was too long or made no sense, get someone who can help you to construct your great ideas and beautiful words properly. They will be more expensive, but the help could be invaluable. Make sure you get referrals on their work before booking.

Editing can be a lengthy process. Do not make it worse by: getting caught up on something small and giving up, listening to every single piece of advice from every single person, forgetting to save each an every draft. (Really, make sure you are saving all your drafts so that if you cut something you later want back, you have it.)

Again, congratulations on this amazing step. Now get your red pen out and get to editing!

THRIVE is answered by Amanda Kusek, a poet, blogger, and dog mom living in NYC.

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