DIY Editing Tips

I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because typos are the bane of my existence!  (Sponsored post.)

You may think that soaring sales numbers or rave reviews are any writer’s crowning achievements, but in my case, one of the greatest satisfactions of my writing career to date has been something far less glamorous: protestations that my writing is well-edited.

After all, one of the main reasons self-published work gets a bad rap is because it’s often known to be riddled with typos, misspellings, and incorrect grammar.  When I first set out to publish Stitch, one of my biggest fears was that mechanical errors in the text would make me come off as unprofessional and, worse, amateur.  (Granted, I was – and probably still am – an amateur… but the reader didn’t need to know this!)

DIY Editing TipsDespite lacking an agent, publisher, and editor, I wanted desperately for my book to look and feel and read like a “real” book.  To that end, I hired a talented cover designer, I spent hours tweaking the print/e-book formatting, and most importantly, I put a LOT of effort into editing my writing.

And guess what?  It worked!  Many readers and reviewers have commented on the quality of my writing, and were even surprised to learn that my books were published independently.  In fact, after publishing Stitch and Shudder, I’ve only learned of a combined 3 true typos across both books (2 of which I fixed in the Stitch update released last April).  And while I’m sure there are more hidden in there (if you know of any, I’d love to know about them!), they’re subtle enough that the vast majority of readers will never even notice – and after all, even professionally published books have a typo or two in them, so I can deal.

Given my success in this particular arena, I thought I’d take a few moments to share my top 3 tips and tricks for other writers who are editing their own work:

1. Get more eyes on it! Seriously, this is the number one tip and by far the most effective thing you can do – get at least 10 people to read your work before you publish it, and make sure they know you want to hear about any typos, misspellings, or potential grammar issues.  (Sometimes people are afraid to insult you otherwise!)  The unfortunate reality is that you just can’t see your own writing clearly – you know what it’s *supposed* to say, so your mind just reads that instead of what’s actually on the page (thanks, brain!).

The good news is that you’re already getting people to give you feedback on the story, right?  Well, why not get some free editing while you’re at it?  Some readers are excellent at picking up on mechanical errors, others less so, so it’s essential to cast a wide net.  If you have the cash, you can even hire a professional – but so far, I’ve gotten by on the generous help of friends and family.  And be sure to THANK THEM for their time and input, even if you don’t always take their advice.  (After all, as I’m constantly telling my husband, there is such thing as “writer’s license!”)

2. Read it in print.  I don’t understand why, but for some reason, typos are easier to catch in print than on-screen.  I HATE wasting paper (I guess all those “save the rainforest” PSAs from when I was a kid made an impression…), but you have to review at least one printed version of your work before you hit the publish button.

In my case, I use the print proof from Createspace to do this, but if you’re just publishing an e-book, you can print it out at home (hey, you can always use a really tiny font, small margins, and double-sided printing to save paper!).  And again, refer to #1 – if you can get other people to read it in print as well, that’s even better.

3. Pay attention to grammar check.  Okay, I’m not going to lie – automated grammar checks have proven completely useless to me 99.9% of the time.  I don’t know what it is about the English language, but computers just don’t seem to get it.  BUT whenever I do a thorough automated grammar check on my books (which usually turns up what feels like about 3000 “issues” and takes 1-2 hours to go through), I almost always find one or two actual errors that I would have overlooked.

Yes, it’s a pain in the butt, but if you want your writing to look professional, you need to catch as many issues as possible – so save this one ’til the end and do it once, but make sure to do it!  You can use the built-in Word grammar check or any number of online tools (e.g., Grammarly), but use something.  You’ll have to sift through a lot of garbage, but you just might find a gem or two.

Good luck and good grammar to all!  If you have any other tips or tricks that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them!

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