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The editor’s life

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One of the mixed blessings of being a self-publishing author is that I am also my own editor. No handing over the precious manuscript to an expert team who will provide an objective view and bully me into creating a best-selling novel. Nope, it’s just me. On the plus side, it’s just me. I can write what I want and change things as I wish. Well, almost. Here’s the process I follow once I’ve completed my first draft:

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 compete 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”). I don’t attempt to make these kinds of 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.

What I also do at this point is 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 novel. 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. For Balance of Betrayal, for example, I was trying something different both in terms of content and also structure so, when I sent the book to my beta-readers I asked specific questions (“Did you guess who the spy was?” “Does the fact that the plots overlap make it confusing?”). I also put the book into the hands of eight different people (because I needed lots of opinions) – but for Bremmand Lives, only a couple of people reviewed each story. 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. I self-publish in both paperback and e-book, so I have to use a specific page size and layout for the physical publication. I paste the content into the correct template, add all the required front and back sections (Title pages, maps, “Also by…” and so on). Then I create a kindle edition and read it again, myself. 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 (an officer’s rank is in lower case – captain – unless it is a specific person’s title – Captain Wochal) 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. The publication process does require me to review the book a few more times, in its paperback format, so I’m usually a bit fed up with it by the time I’ve published. Still, then I can add it to the shelf and only read it again when I reach step 2 of my next book!!

Cate Caruth is the author of the Bremmand Chronicles. To buy her books or learn more about them, go to www.bremmandchronicles.co.uk
You can follow Cate on Twitter at www.twitter.com/catec23

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