Those of us in the indie-author realm have our own views and opinions on self-editing. Some of us are the DIY types who do everything from the writing to the editing, and even cover design.
Other indies stress on the importance of hiring professional editors. Both developmental and copy editors, along with other niches if applicable.
The costs can be crazy high. And often, we can expect to see our bank accounts dwindle. Therefore, many of us opt for self-editing. As an indie who does his own editing, you may think I’m one who would stubbornly keep professional eyes from my work.
The answer is no. I believe in professional editing. And if you’re an indie author reading today’s post who would rather stick to just writing, then you need a professional editor. Also, if you never took editing courses, you should probably invest in one, too.
But if you’re an author looking for tips and tricks to master self-editing, keep reading. But, I’d like to throw out a disclaimer: Self-editing ONLY replaces professional editing when you dedicate consistent time and effort to the craft. And even then, it may not be enough.
Self-Editing Classes Came in Handy
Back in 2017, I joined the Jerry Jenkins Writers’ Guild for a year. And there, I learned everything about what he called, “ferocious self-editing.” It taught students over 20 tricks to the trade, mainly geared toward pacing. For example, he showed us how to omit needless words, resist the urge to explain, resist the urge to describe stage direction, etc.
So for would-be self-editors, I have quite a solid background in the self-editing field. Copyediting more than anything else. Plus, the more I edited my own works, which I’ve been doing for over six years – most of my works are those you’ll never see – the better I became. But, as mentioned, I took an entire year to learn self-editing. Plus, I often outsource my work to beta-readers for honest feedback regarding my editing.
My First Self-Editing Test: A Blessing in Disguise
So, why did I even embark on a ten-day ferocious self-edit in the first place?
It goes back to a gigantic rookie mistake when I sent back-to-back campaigns to my then-fledgling mailing list. I knew I’d have to make it up to them. Enter Chronicles of Rondure, featuring metal morpher Tash Holmes. This 10,000-word novelette gave my readers an early look into the World of Rondure, and how it relates to both Elementals of Nordica and the entire Elementals Universe.
It also provided me a test regarding my self-editing skills with my then-new reading audience.
Despite Chronicles of Rondure paling length-wise compared to Chronicles of the Elementals, Wind Wielder, and Wind Master, it was still the most challenging self-editing experience of my life (Civil War has since become the title holder).
Self-editing is the ultimate challenge for any author, and to edit a 10,000-word piece of work that I didn’t even outline since I was so bent on getting this thing out to my Readers Republic by the time my June 14th 2021 campaign hit. Just so you know, that ten-day window also included writing a first draft.
So, other than self-editing classes, how else did I manage this?
Related: What are Interquel Books?
Working as a full-time freelance writer, I was able to remain grounded. Often, I’d write four freelance blog posts per day. So in between those posts, I would write about 1,000 words of Chronicles. Another 1,500-word post, then another 1,000 words of Chronicles, and so on. I ended up with about a 13,000-word first draft, which I cut to 10,000 words.
Once I finished the first draft, I took the work through three rounds of developmental editing. For my novels, I do as many as five rounds, given the complexity of the plots. But for the shorter work, three rounds sufficed. The second I found myself choosing stronger verbs, nouns, and minimizing adjectives, stage direction, and other unnecessary description, I knew the time to copyedit began.
I first wrote this post on June 13th, 2021, which served as my final copyedit/proofread. I went through manuscript three more times for a grand total of six rounds of editing. Nine, if you count my ferocious self-edits before I continued writing my first draft.
I read and review books, and I think I put in a grand total of five hours’ worth of reading between June 5th and June 13th. A low since February 2020. In other words, reckless abandon, and working in between freelance posts for the rough draft allowed this story to come into fruition.
Related: Is Self-Editing Enough?
The Process Outlined
Okay, so I made the rookie mistake on June 4th, 2021. At 12 pm EST. My first campaign went to readers, with an inadvertent second one following 45 minutes later.
After a few hours of panic, I figured that only another magnet would show the Republic, (name of my mailing list) especially since they all joined within the last month, that I’m a legit author and not a spammer – so no more 45-minute emails!
Come Saturday June 5th, I wrote my first 3,000 words, followed by a ferocious self-edit on Sunday and another 3,000 words that night. On Monday, I edited and wrote another 3,500 words, with 1,000 words following Posts #1, 2, and 3 in freelance writing. Following Post #4 on Monday and Tuesday, I wrote another 500 words.
After another self-edit and 3,500 words on Tuesday, I set the work aside, to begin the developmental edit on Wednesday. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday were my developmental editing days. I finished my final freelance blog post at 7:30 EST on Thursday morning. Which allowed me to get 1.5 developmental editing sessions in. On Friday and Saturday, I went through my copyedits, before finishing up on Sunday.
- June 5th – 3,000 words
- June 6th – Self-edit, another 3,000 words
- June 7th – Self-edit, 3,500 words
- June 8th – Self-edit, 3,500 words
- June 9th – Developmental edit
- June 10th – 1.5 Developmental edits
- June 11th – 1/2 Developmental edit, copyedit
- June 12th – Copyedit
- June 13th – Copyedit/proofread
Note, that I take each draft through a self-edit before I write the next part of a first draft. Another one of Jenkins’ techniques is that he would do this for his first drafts. This type of edit is neither developmental nor is it a copyedit. Instead, I look for glaring plot errors during my previous day’s worth of writing. I call it plot-editing.
Related: What is DIY Self-Publishing?
Ferocious Self-Editing Means…
More sensational novellas and novelettes for you and your readers if you’re willing to take the plunge.
So if you haven’t done so yet, concoct a few short stories and novellas and dish them out to your readers. And I guarantee you they’ll appreciate it.
These short works ranging between 10,000 and 17,000 words should introduce them to characters who will later appear and play a major role in your paid works.
Let’s use my own work as an example: Following Book II – Wind Master, readers can expect interquel works from me that won’t give away the plot of my main works. But they will give my readers another reason to download and read my paid works.
By becoming well-versed in self-editing, even if you’re not keen on editing your full-length novels, you can knockout some 10,000 to 17,000-word works.
So your action item today is to create something in short story, novelette, or novella-length, give it a good few rounds of editing, and share the work with your readers.