How much of the time it takes to create a book is spent writing?

Not as much as you’d think.

I was once introduced to a model of writing that makes writing only 30% of the process. The bulk of the time is spent either side if the writing. We’ve already discussed planning so now seems the right time to look at editing.

To be clear, editing is anything that happens after the first draft is created. Re-reading, adjusting, moving things around… it’s all part of the editing process. And it takes time. My advice to you is that you don’t skimp on this – however much you want to get your book into print. You’ll always look back and regret it if, on rereading your magnum opus, you see mistakes and things you wish you’d done differently.

Oh, and by the way, even if you have a publishing contract and therefore an editor working with you, don’t expect to leave them to sort out your draft for you. They are a massive help but this is still your book so always be prepared to do the work yourself.

Here, then is the approach I use  to editing, which starts during the writing process.

Step 1 – in-line editing

While I’m writing a book I am also editing. I start each writing day by reviewing what I wrote yesterday and sometimes reading more of my previous work. This is partly to refresh my memory and make sure sections link up but it also helps weed out major errors as I’m writing.

Step 2 – broad review

Once the first draft is complete I read the whole thing through on screen, correcting minor errors and noting more major considerations (“would this work better if I move this section?” “It doesn’t make sense for this character to do this.” “Did I repeat that concept in a previous chapter?”). I don’t attempt to make the bulk of the changes until I’ve read the whole book. I make all the major changes in one sweep, once I know all the rewrites that are needed.

With my fiction writing  I also re-read my previous books. Bremmand Chronicles is a series, so continuity matters. It also helps remind me that I know how to write (I sometimes doubt it when I’m at this stage!)

Step 3 – paper review

Now I print the manuscript. Somehow, changing the medium gives a different perspective. I am much more likely to see typing and spelling mistakes and also misuse of words (“form” instead of “from” is a regular of mine) and it is easier to read it as a “whole book” so my take on it is different. I may still find major changes needed but now I’m looking more at style and turn of phrase. Quite often in the margin I’ll write the words “clunky” – meaning a sentence needs to be re-written because it is clumsy or confusing.

Step 4 – beta readers

At this stage, I hand the book over to other people to look at. Sometimes their brief is general (“tell me what you think?”) but sometimes there are specific things I need to know – and this also determines how many beta readers I use. Asking specific questions helps reassure me on things I’m concerned about and it also helps the beta-readers know what to look for.

Step 5 – format and kindle-read

Once I’ve made any changes needed based on the beta-reader views, I start the production process. With a publisher, they will provide a typeset proof for review. When I self-publish, I order a printed copy in both paperback and e-book, so I have to use a specific page size and layout for the physical publication. I read the book again, this time in kindle form. Another change of medium means another change of perspective and also allows me to test that the layout works for e-readers. More changes at this point, but now (hopefully) minor errors only.

Step 6 – consistency check

The final editing stage is a consistency check. It includes proofreading but I also look for common mistakes I often make (“It’s” instead of “its,” “lead” instead of “led,” that kind of thing) and that I’ve used capitalisation consistently. I have a word document which captures my conventions for this sort of thing and, now that I’ve stopped fiddling with the text, I go through and make sure I’ve followed those conventions consistently.

And that’s it – now I can actually put the damned thing out to publish. I say that a bit tongue I cheek but, in all honesty, by the time you’ve done all that and then read it a few more times during the production process, it is perfectly normal to feel a bit fed up with the book.

But it pays off. The next time you read it, with the benefit of hindsight, you’ll be able to think

“Wow. This is a really good book!”

If you have dreams of writing a book and need some expert help, contact Creative Words to find out about our Author Packages.

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