The Final Final Final Edit

A discussion about the stage of ‘final editing’ on twitter prompted me to create this post. In fact, I wasn’t just prompted to blog, I was compelled to make the whole thing a statement and reminder of what we must go through to get to the end point. The proof of which I present in the mug below.

This shows all ‘new’ writers out there that editing  (and all the zany backed up versions of it) is about as much fun as checking your monthly bank statements. Though it does become a part of our lives, along with drinking too much coffee or tea.

 

Yes I know that I sometimes swear at myself for lying when I tell people I am currently working on the final edit,  when actually I’m just sitting on my phone telling people. I swear, however,  this time, I actually AM getting it done and that’s a fact.

One last thing…

What is the final edit exactly?

Well there never would be one if you didn’t simply decide that you were never going to change the manuscript again.  At some point you have to say.. “THIS is what I’ve achieved and it’s the best I can do, and I never want to read it again unless I am forced to at gunpoint.” That’s the final, final, final because nobody wants to really die after putting in so much hard work. That’s when you either self-publish or sub it along with your query letter and  move on to the next project with momentous relief.

 

 

 

 

 

Keeping Track of Your Storyline

I regularly like to post helpful advice for writers. Here’s a tip I thought of sharing today as I get stuck into the second draft of my fourth novel.

I find this method of keeping track of my FIRST draft really useful. It may not work for you but may work for those of us who can only function when everything is nicely organised.

All writers know that once we have finished the first draft, it is usually in a bit of a muddle. Okay, possibly a huge muddle. Things are happening all over the place. It’s like an encyclopedia of action, plot, emotions all taking place in your head at once, hence, a sheer mammoth of a task to sort out.

This is the kind of outline I do when I’ve completed my first draft.

I don’t edit or change anything until I have written a few story beats of each chapter that I have.

I create a new blank file where I write up every single chapter headed in bold and the name of the narrator (if it changes per chapter) beneath that.

Under each of these Chapter headings I make brief and concise notes of what is happening only in that chapter. (The points highlighted in red are where I am thinking about adding that particular point in on the next re-write.)

Here’s an example:


CHAPTER 4

Charlene visits Jimmy. She confesses how she feels about Michael. He advises her.

Later in the day she bumps into Michael who is no longer angry with her.

He offers to accompany her to the party.

She walks home with him but isn’t sure about it.


That’s it. That is all I need to know about the direction of the plot and what is happening in that particular chapter in the briefest possible way. I don’t want tons of details, flesh and bones of the story. The point of this list is to cut it all down and keep a record of any ‘structural’ changes to the story … and to be clear in my head on what is happening, and most importantly in what chapter it is happening in. 

Trust me, life becomes a nightmare when you need to start moving chapters around. 

If I later add or change a plot point, move or insert a chapter, this list must be updated to reflect my changes. You can always refer to these lists for reference purposes if you prefer to keep backup copies of the changes.

As always, do what works best for you and whatever ends up being the most helpful in getting you past the first messy draft and on to an improved second one.

I hope you find this tip useful in your editing work.

 

Things Professional Editors Won’t Tell You

You’ve finished your book and you’re ready to self-publish it.

Are you sure that the layout is up to a reasonably professional standard? I mean really sure?

Did you know that you NEVER indent the first paragraph of a chapter?

“Professionally printed material typically does not indent the first paragraph, but indents those that follow.”

Well, that one tiny detail, (plus quite a few others) let down a lot of self-published authors.

And mainly its because they ‘re never told, or they don’t know. Editors won’t tell you that. It’s the secrets to their job! 

So I decided to share a few tips about this important topic because the subject of professionally formatted manuscripts came up in a thread I was recently engaged in.

I’ve heard self-published authors say, “I wasn’t sure if my formatting efforts were completely up to scratch but I couldn’t afford a proper editor.” Well that’s true, many of us can’t afford the high prices of professional editors but that doesn’t mean you should make a half-hearted attempt. The appearance of your text and layout is massively important and if you can’t afford or somehow connect with a professional editor or reliable freelancer (without breaking the bank,) you need to sit up and pay attention .

Here are some of my tips. (And make a note of them when you do get to this particular stage,) because believe me, even if you have the most amazing book cover or story in the world, a badly formatted e-book, and God forbid – printed book – is going to make your reader blow steam out of his ears.

  1. For print books, get familiar with and compare the different layouts and sizes, here are some good book layout tips.
  2. Check out recommended fonts/most commonly used fonts for both e-book and print book formats. (Find out what the best fonts to use are, and don’t veer too far from this with some fancy whim of being different or unique.) Certain fonts are best for reading in print and others good for reading online. Font choice is a big deal either way to professional editors and they aren’t all free to use. Get some advice here on picking fonts for your book.
  3.  Some editors like to lead the first chapter in with one capitalised letter in a stylised font. Many publishers have a stylistic preference and the style is usually consistent over the entire manuscript, but when editors (and critical readers) open your book and see that your first paragraph of your first chapter is indented; they cringe.
  4. Get out of editing mode and slip on your formatting-research head. This is when you stop actually reading the words but pay attention to how they look. It’s another hat to wear I know. There’s a lot to consider and learn, especially if you want the style and text in your book to reflect your story well.  There are some tips here on Typography, which is the visual style and appearance of your text. Formatting text is something of a huge industry all on its own, and it’s deep.

There are many tell-tale signs whether or not a self-published author has done his or her homework. None of us are experts and we all make mistakes, but surely it’s worth gaining some knowledge in this area if you aren’t going to enlist professional services. You want your book to appear its best right? Don’t feel daunted, you’ll feel empowered by how much you’ve learned during this process, and like me, you can pass on your experience and advice to others.

Remember, many readers can spot amateur mistakes too, and if they can’t easily recognise them they won’t be impressed by some weird looking design.

Have you any formatting tips that you can share here with us?


Here’s some further reading on the subject.

4 Top Formatting mistakes to avoid – The Book Designer

Using fonts legally – Read this if you want to know more about the legalities of using commercial fonts and copyright issues.

Createspace thread focusing on font – Worth a gander. I regularly check some of these threads for author thoughts and opinions.

The duties of editors – A blog post on the different types of editors within a publishing house and their varying roles.

Preparing your manuscript – An article on the various formatting and design elements.