Ingram Blog

How to Fine-Tune Your First Draft

Editing may come naturally to some writers, but to others it may seem like a daunting process. Either way, it's an absolutely necessary step to publishing a book. Even if you pay to have your book professionally edited, you should still give it a rough edit, yourself, before sending it off. Here's how to self-edit your book and publish like a pro.

Give It a Rest

The very first thing you should do is walk away from your manuscript for a little while. Leave it completely untouched for a week or so: go on vacation, take a really long nap, anything to refresh your brain. When you come back to it, you want to read it with fresh eyes, almost as if you didn't write it. You'll be able to pick up on mistakes more easily, and you'll have a less biased point of view because you've taken a break from working so hard.

Read It Out Loud

When it does come time to read it, read it out loud first. Whether you want to do this from a digital or print copy is up to you, but many authors find it helpful to read off of a printed page. As you're reading it out loud, you'll hear inconsistencies in tone and stumble over areas where the flow is disrupted. You may even want to record yourself reading it, or use an app that will upload it and read it to you.

Check for Tense and Voice

Most readers are naturally drawn to action. Generally, that means you should avoid "was...-ing" as much as possible. You can usually replace these kinds of phrases with more straightforward ones. For example, "Margaret was rummaging through the dumpster" could be changed to "Margaret rummaged through the dumpster." It's more concise, and it makes Margaret seem a little more active. Likewise, check for consistency throughout your whole manuscript. If your manuscript is written in a specific tense, ensure that you use that tense throughout. Tense inconsistency often occurs in sections of dialogue, so pay extra attention there.

Identify Your Trouble Words

Just about every writer has a list of words that always cause issues for them. When you write every day, it's easy to make little grammatical mistakes here and there. Try to write down a list of the words you have a history of using incorrectly, and scour your manuscript for them. You can also use software like Grammarly to help you pick up phrases that might need to be reworked, though it's not 100% accurate.

While you're at it, make a list of your go-to words as well. Many writers have a few favorite words in their vast vocabulary. Your particular crutch words will show up quite a bit in your manuscript. Thankfully, there's a program for this too. Scrivener will generate a list of the words you use frequently, which will help you determine when you're overusing something. Get rid of them and replace them with something fresh - it will have a big effect on the overall flow of your manuscript.

Randomize the Last Round of Editing

Once your book has been thoroughly proofread and edited, give it a few good spot checks. Go over and edit the chapters again, this time in a random order. When you take individual chapters out of context, it helps your brain process them individually. You'll be able to catch any last technical errors because you won't be concentrating on the "big picture" of the book as much.

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