Why write a blog, eBook, or a physical book? You have something important to say, and you’re looking for the best platform that allows your voice to be heard. And for many writers in this electronic age, that vehicle is self-publishing.
Why self-publish? You bypass traditional publishing companies rejection letters, and you escape the snare of vanity publishers who rarely produce the results they promise you when you sign on the dotted line. Any publishing company that charges anything to publish your book or article is considered a vanity press. Most Vanity Press Publishers require you, the author, to do all the legwork to promote and sell your work.
Since you are considering self-publishing, self-editing might sound like an easy way to save a few bucks. However, if one of your core values as an author is to produce an article of excellence, then you will have your work cut out for you. Self-editing requires patience, a keen eye, and discipline. However, it can be done!
I’ll also say upfront; self-editing might decrease your creative output as you invest valuable time and resources in the editing process. For every hour I write, I spend at least three hours tweaking what I write. When I have the funds to hire an editor, I will!
Even professional editors know the value of hiring editors to go through their own work. Speaking from years of experience, I have discovered that editing and proofreading another person’s writing is easier than editing my own.
So, why spend so much effort in the editing process? Isn’t it the message that counts? Proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling allow your readers to hear your message, unhindered. Sloppy writing creates subliminal confusion and frustration in your audience. A well-crafted article might be likened to a highway in excellent condition. Very few people will continue to drive along a road full of potholes and speed bumps – if they can help it. Very few people will read an article for more than a couple of paragraphs when that article is poorly written.
In the following chapters, I will offer some simple editing tips, which if followed, will safeguard you from embarrassing typos and grammatical errors.
Here is the step-by-step process for successful Self-Editing
I suggest you follow these steps in order.
1. Use Microsoft Word or another word processing program to write your first draft, then run that draft through the program’s spelling/grammar checker.
2. Use Grammarly. However, I caution you not to agree with every error Grammarly points out. Although it is an excellent program, it is still a computer program. You are human, and you understand where your article is going, and the voice you wish to use. Grammarly helps with passive voice, verbosity, split infinitives, spelling, and spacing errors. That’s just the beginning! If you click on a word while using Grammarly, it will show you synonyms. I use the paid version. For me, it’s worth every penny, and I highly recommend it to friends.
3. When you can’t work your mind around an awkward sentence or phrase, check out an online program called Ginger. It’s quite clunky, but it does give you alternative sentence structure suggestions. I honestly don’t use it that often on my MacBook, it works better as an app for iPhone or iPad.
4. Listen to your first draft by plugging it into SpeakMe – or any other text to voice app. Reading your writing out loud is not as effective as hearing the words spoken by another voice. I discover missing words, redundant phrases, and odd punctuation this way.
As you listen, ask yourself the following questions: Does my overall written tone sound too preachy? Do the thoughts flow well? Do I find my mind wandering? If you answer yes to any of those questions, it’s time to tighten up the text.
5. As I regularly blog using WordPress, I use a spelling/grammar check program that comes with Jetpack. Jetpack’s grammar checker will ruthlessly expose sentences that use passive voice. Unless you are writing a technical book, editors recommend that no more than 10% of an article be written in the passive voice. If you aren’t sure what passive tense is or how you can transform passive tense to active voice, I recommend this article by Purdue Owl.
6. Go through your draft once again, looking for your typical writing weaknesses and bad habits. My usual suspects? Using the words ‘had’ and ‘that’ when not needed, and the overuse of passive voice. Keep an eye on using complex language and structure when a more straightforward word or phrase would do just fine. You might have an extensive vocabulary but resist the urge to write to impress my audience with your writing skills. Write to carry a message.
7. Check for spacing, punctuation, and other technical errors created in the editing process. Check for double spaces at the end of sentences or between words. Typewriter users were taught to place a double space after each sentence. The technical reasons for doing so no longer exist. Therefore, it is now considered standard by all print media to place only one space between sentences.
8. Whenever possible, set aside whatever your article for at least a week, then go through it again using steps 1-7. With a fresh perspective, you will discover more fat needs to be trimmed!
9. Ask trusted friends to go through your final draft. They usually find errors! Ask them for an honest opinion, using the questions you asked yourself in step four.
If all this sounds too complicated, consider hiring a professional editor if you have the funds to do so. I would suggest that you fire an editor for a spit-and-polish, even if you have followed the steps mentioned before. There are many highly qualified and gifted freelance editors out there; there is no need to go through a publishing firm. Some editors will reduce their fees if you send them a few paragraphs that prove you have done your groundwork. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
Stay clear of publishing companies that offer editing packages; they are usually overpriced. I highly recommend Lisa Thompson, you can find her in the Facebook group called “The Time to Write“, a group for authors, book cover designers, editors, and bloggers.