A while back, I wrote “Three Tips for Self Editing,” detailing some of the steps I use to get to a semi-polished second draft. (The draft that eventually goes out to peers for critique.)
Of course, there’s a lot more to editing than what’s contained in my little post.
Numerous guides have been written about the editing process and if you’re someone like me—a former English major, recovering from various writing classes, who’s been engaged in a writing intensive day job—you probably have these books scattered all over your home or office.
The most recent one I’ve read is Editor-Proof Your Writing: 21 Steps to the Clear Prose Publishers and Agents Crave by Don McNair. (Full disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publicist.) This book is specifically geared toward aspiring writers, including those who are looking to self publish.
Editor-Proof Your Writing‘s conversational format makes for a quick read (though the tone, at times, was a little too perky for my taste). The editing strategies are straightforward and easy to understand—you don’t have to worry about intimidating grammatical terms here, folks—and the organization of the book makes it easy to find advice on a particular subject.
McNair divides his book into three parts: Part One: Putting Words In, Part Two: Taking Words Out, and Part Three: Sharing Your Words.
Part one serves as a general workshop. The short 10 chapters cover material such as
- properly structuring your story
- keeping your reader interested
- choosing the best point of view
- making sure your scenes pull their weight.
At the end of each chapter there’s an assignment to apply what you’ve learned to your current work-in-progress.
Part two contains McNair’s 21 step process for making your writing cleaner and more effective by removing unnecessary words and phrases. The section is replete with editing exercises so you can practice what you’ve learned.
In part three, Sharing Your Work, there’s advice for every level of sharing beginning with how to find a critique partner/group, engaging the services of a professional editor and finally—the grail—submitting your work for publication.
Whether you’re just starting out in the writing world or you’ve been pounding the keyboard for years, I’d recommend this book as an addition to your non-fiction library.
New writers will be awakened to common pitfalls. And everyone else can use the refresher.
Trust me. When I read through the sections on passive voice and character filters (where you write things like “she heard birds sing” instead of “the birds sang”) I was reminded of just how easy it is to slip into a passive voice or to unintentionally put distance between your character and your reader. And a little later, I was able to put these refreshed eyes to work doing some proofreading for a friend.
You can find the book on Amazon (both Kindle and paperback formats) and for the price, it really can’t be beat. So check it out and do let me know if you find it helpful.