Top Tips Tuesday; Editing

In an ideal world us independent authors would all be able to afford an editor. And ideally of course, we all should employ an editor. But there is no way in this world that I can afford an editor, so I have had to employ other means to get my books to the best possible standard for publication. These are my top tips for editing the hell out of your book without paying for it.

1) First write your book. Write it like no one is watching and no one is ever going to read it. You can edit as you go if you like, but personally I don’t. I just get it all out. It’s one big messy splurge. It’s up and out and done. Then, breathe.

2) Go back to the beginning and do your first edit. Wherever possible amend your grammar, spellings and so on. This time you can imagine that a really good friend is going to read this manuscript at the end of this edit, so it needs to be reasonable enough for that. Check for plot holes, inconsistencies in characters, believable dialogue and so on. For me, this first edit is usually a bit like a read through. I remind myself of the whole story and get to experience reading it in one go.

3)Do your second edit. This one is more ruthless. Continue to check for typos and mistakes in formatting. Be ruthless and cut out anything that does not absolutely need to be there. Try to imagine someone else wrote it and this is your first experience of the story. Does it make sense? Does it waffle? Is every chapter gripping or do some wander? Does the narrative get repetitive? Do the characters sound flat or cliched? Imagine yourself with a huge knife and keep slashing until things are neater, faster and have a bigger impact.

4) Fourth edit. Repeat the steps above. Eliminate those typos, for you will continue to find them. Check your grammar and spelling. Change the story if you need to. Rewrite if you feel the need, but you should ideally be cutting out, not adding. Check for clunky, slow areas. Get rid of anything that does not propel the story forward.

5) Hand it to you first reader. This must be someone who reads a lot, someone educated to a higher standard than yourself if possible. You want this person to pick up grammatical mistakes and typos that you missed and will keep missing. They will make notes on each chapter, what works, what doesn’t, where it is slow, where it is good, what confused them, what excited them and so on. They should send each chapter back to you one at a time with their notes. Get them to give their honest overall opinion. This person must be someone who is not afraid to hurt your feelings and you must not be too precious about your work at this point. Lay yourself bare, put your pride to one side and listen to everything they have to say.

6) With notes to hand, go through every chapter one by one. Again, eliminate those pesky typos. Check it is formatted correctly. Check the plot holes are filled in. Loose ends are tied up. Every chapter grips the reader enough to make them want to read the next as fast as possible. This is the sixth edit and you will be sick of it by now.

7) Send it to someone else. In fact, even better, send one copy to the person who has already helped you and another copy to someone else. If you can rope in a few more beta readers, then great. They should all be prepared to be completely honest with you, and again they should all help eliminate typos and obvious mistakes.

8) Take a break from it at this point as it will inevitably be doing your head in! Work on another project until this one calls you back. Only go back when you are ready to. You need to want to do it.

9) With all the beta readers notes, criticisms, amendments and suggestions to hand, now do the eighth edit of your book. Make final changes if you feel the need. If not, just make it as tight as possible. Keep the pace and the flow and make sure from a readers point of view, there is nothing glaringly terrible in it that will let all your hard work down.

10) This is now your finished manuscript. If you are feeling brave you could send it to one more person to check. Hopefully they will not find anything to amend. Hopefully your gut feeling as an avid reader yourself, is that this is the best you can do and it is finished.

I am not saying that all of these steps can possibly replace the skills and experience of a professional editor. Of course not. Maybe one day you will be able to afford one, and what a great day that will be. But until then, these steps should at least make sure your indie manuscript is good enough to go out there and fly the flag for the indie cause. It won’t be perfect. No doubt it will be a bit raw, perhaps a bit rough around the edges. Perhaps every now and then you will feel the urge to pull it in once more, just to check it.

And one more thing before I go. My biggest tip to anyone when it comes to writing, editing or proofreading your own book? Read. Read a lot. Read every day, whenever you can, as much as you can. Read good stuff and terrible stuff as this is the only way you will be able to recognise what is good and terrible about your own writing. Writers, in my opinion, should be readers first and foremost. The more you read, the more you will be able to do justice to the craft of writing.

Top Tips Tuesday-A Better Facebook Author Page

This is my first Top Tips Tuesday blog and I hope you find it useful. When I first started my Facebook author page, I really had no clue what I was doing. It was a frustrating endeavor a lot of the time, as well as one that often felt rather pointless. However, my attitude has really changed and although my following is still small, it is growing. Here are three tips to help yours do the same.

1) PATIENCE is key! You might look around and see other author’s with thousands and thousands of likes while yours is still hovering around 100 or so. They might be doing something right, they might be selling loads of books or they might have paid for them. Of course, you can pay for Facebook likes and Twitter followers, but personally I don’t see the point. They are just faceless numbers and are not likely to result in book sales. It took me ages to get to 100 likes, and even longer to get to 200. In the early days it felt like I was just talking to myself, but I kept it going. You can also pay Facebook to promote your page, but again, this does not guarantee book sales. Or you can work at it. A blog and website with Facebook Like buttons are a must. Joining the big free social media sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Goodreads is another must do. You can link all these sites to each other which means if you post a blog it will get sent to Twitter and Facebook, and so on. Connecting with other authors and/or readers is another way to grow your page. But don’t just follow people and then message them asking them to like your Facebook page or buy your book. That’s spamming and it annoys people. Instead try to foster genuine connections. If someone follows you on Twitter and seems like someone who would enjoy your page, message them to thank them and ask if they would like to connect on Facebook. Note; this means you like their page as well! It works both ways. Keep the conversation going, maybe buy their book and review it. You might never hear from them again, or they might be really touched and do the same for you. Remember that writers are readers too! Be patient and keep working at it and it will grow in time.

2) ATTITUDE! You’ve got to put the right attitude across. This is not your personal page. This is your professional author page, and so you must start acting like a professional. Don’t rant and rave on there. Don’t complain about not having enough likes, or being ignored. Do this in private messages to people who are feeling the same! If you went to see your child’s teacher and they moaned about how much the children annoy them, you wouldn’t be very happy would you? If you went to see the bank manager and he reeled off a load of negative things that had happened in his day, you would think about going elsewhere. Be professional now that you are in the public eye. Moan in private, celebrate in public! Thank people for their likes and engage with them when they comment or post. These likers are your potential readers! They want to feel good when they go to your page. They want to feel inspired when your posts come up on their feed.

3) ACTIVITY! I cannot stress enough how important this is. Keep your page active. Don’t just post on there when you have a new book out. Don’t save it just for posting new reviews. Try to post three or four times a day and keep it interesting. Yes, it should be a platform to shout about your achievements. By all means share your good reviews, but it needs to be much more than that. Share your blog posts, and help other authors by reblogging their posts. Think of your page like your own mini magazine. You are the editor. What will interest your readers? What will keep them coming back for more? Engage them in conversations and debates. I recently had a lot of activity when I discussed the subject of authors giving their books away for free. And that is the key; activity. Remember that if people do not engage with your page, then Facebook will think they have lost interest and will stop showing it to them. You need to keep them liking, commenting and sharing. Tell them your progress, give them updates and teasers. If you are editing, post snippets from your work to get them interested. Asking for help naming characters always goes down well on my page! People love to get involved! Have contests and giveaways. Post interesting articles from other pages. There are so many great pages on Facebook for authors, and you will find a constant stream of advice, top tips, personal stories and blogs, and information that the readers and writers on your page will get something from too. Pay it forward and help out other authors! Read and review their books or share their pages. Think about the times of day you are posting and don’t forget that people in other parts of the world may be going to bed when you are waking up. Try to post throughout the day so that people don’t miss things. Tell people about useful promo sites you have found. Share your experiences.

Don’t give up!