Hello everyone. I was just wondering, for all you authors out there, how many times did you go back and edit your manuscripts before you published them? How many people did you ask to read it? Did you get it professionally edited or not? Just trying to get some ideas and opinions. Thanks!
While writing the first draft I correct typos only.
After the first draft is done I read the entire manuscript with an eye on the plot. Does it make sense? Is it forced? Does it seem too convenient that certain things happen at a certain point and were they set up properly. Writing down any corrections that need taken care of on a notepad.
After the plot I check my characters, names and such to make sure I don't have two people with the same name. Do they have feelings? Thoughts? Do they breathe on the page?
During the third reading I'm checking the flow of the language with an eye at smoothing out anything that might throw the reader out of the story.
My fourth reading is just that. I read the story, touching up here and there.
For my fifth reading I go backwards from the end to the beginning, reading each sentence individually.
After that the manuscript is sent to a professional editor who also writes in the genre of the book.
After I complete the corrections, if I agree with them, I move onto a final read and polish.
Hi, Jennifer. I'm glad you asked that question, because it's one I've wanted to ask myself. I just self-published my first novel in November, 2011, and I did not have a professional editor do it. I had one reader work with me during the writing of the first draft. Then, after severely reducing the word count in the second draft, I had three friends read it for feedback. Each reading produced another draft, so that by the time I published, I was on the fifth draft. I published only in electronic format for the first month, and after reading through that version again, I discovered a few more things, which I corrected before publishing a print version. No one has found any further problems, so far. Having just read a novel recently published by one of my favorite authors who I know has hers professionally edited - she always cites them in the acknowledgments - and finding a number of errors in hers, I feel pretty good about what myself and friends accomplished "unprofessionally."
Back in the old days when we published in paper before ebooks we were obsessed with editing and proofing. That didn't stop until the printer rolled out the blue pages. That was for the final proof read. With ebooks I have made changes to my currently published one 5 times already since publishing at Amazon. Then I just reloaded it. I think it is finally done; I hope. You get as many people as you can to to proof read it. I've collaborated with several editors all working on the same project and that worked quite well. Being an editor myself I'm reluctant to follow advice from another editor unless it really makes sense and improvement to me. If you are on weak ground for getting the grammar and punctuation tight then a seasoned editor is the way to go. Hope this helps.
I lost count how many times I "fixed" it and had only one person read it (I wouldn't suggest) due to trust issues...and the fact I hadn't found this site by the time I published.
You will know when you have reached your editing limit, usually it happens between 4 and 6 times. But you should feel satisfied with your work. After i have finished my main draft i edit it once on my own, then send it to two individuals who i know will critique it with real advice and remarks. Then i edit again once on my own, changing things that they recommended or adding things i didn't think about. Then i send it to my line by line person who edits grammatical mistakes and proofreads it. She usually adds anything else i might have missed. Then i read one final time to make sure i don't notice anything else. That's it. Of course with your very first novel, you do more. I did about six at least, and these were long edits. Hope that helps.
Someone once said, (and at the moment I honestly can’t recall who), that books are never finished, they’re abandoned.
I took his/her point to mean that you can edit and make fixes to your manuscript till the second-coming if you want. But if you desire to get your book out there, then at some point you have to just push the manuscript away and say, “It’s done...and this time I really, really mean it!”
Whether from an editor or an aunt, at some point get a fresh pair of eyes on the manuscript but always maintain your overall vision for the story…it is your story after all.
I think when you can honestly say, “This is the absolute best that I can make it.” then you’re done.
To me manuscripts are a lot like children, you love them and nurture them, you blanket them in love and raise them with all the hopes and desires of success that you can dream for them. But at some point, when they have grown, you want them out of your house!
Are you are talking about tweaking the story or proofreading the manuscript? These two editing chores are very different and should be treated quite separately. The latter should only be done when you have definitely finished the former, as changing part of the story even slightly, because of the inevitable knock-on effects all over the place, can wreak such havoc with grammar, punctuation, spelling, continuity etc throughout the manuscript that you will then have no option but to do it all again. And, as someone mentioned earlier and I was taught even earlier still, the best way to proofread is to work backwards so that the book's story does not distract you from its construction. Then, once should be enough.
Editing the story is quite another matter. I know the comment that Philip mentioned, about never 'finishing' a book but simply reaching the point at which you feel justified in 'abandoning' it. The editing process is like a hysteresis curve in that it rises steeply for a while then suddenly levels off quite rapidly, still rising but barely perceptibly. After this point your miniscule tweaking will be noticeable only by you, and not by the readers. Then you should abandon it.
The notion of editing a book 'X number of times' is quite artificial. You should, as Philip said earlier, edit, edit and edit until you are sick of the sight of it then lock it in a cupboard and walk away for a few weeks. Don't look at it and don't think about it. Then return refreshed, sit down quietly and read it through as a reader would. If you are then happy that it 'works', 'sling it out the door', as we used to say in the days of paper and snail mail. If you are not happy with it then repeat the process until you are.
Bear in mind that initially an edit of the whole book might take weeks and involve major changes to the whole plot, but towards the end you are likely to be spending just an hour or two making sure some minor change in Chapter 3 does not make Chapter 5 totally nonsensical. Bear in mind also that it is quite easy to 'polish to death' anything artistic; ie make it so perfect that you destroy its idiosyncratic charm. Studio musicians are often guilty of this, oblivious to the fact that the original live performance was often stunningly successful BECAUSE of its imperfections rather than despite them. Art should always come from the heart, not the hands.
Finally, regarding asking others to read it: I think this can be a snare. You are obtaining the opinions of a very few individual readers who know nothing of the readership market, and ones that might be nervous of real criticism because they know you. If you pay an experienced professional editor to read it, however, you will get effectively the distilled views of perhaps millions of readers, and a quite impartial assessment as they do not know you. I know which I would choose. I feel I have wittered on here a bit, but hope it is helpful. I had twelve books professionally published in the typewriter days and have produced one myself in digital form so I know how difficult these aspects of the game can be. For what it may be worth, none of my books was read before publication by anyone other than a professional editor, and all bar the last were frantically edited until a few days before the contracted delivery date, then posted! Admittedly a pro editor then took over. Conversely I was horrified to discover with the last one while constantly tweaking and sending up new versions to Scribd that I had run up over 100 revisions! But without a delivery date one can agonise for weeks over the placing of a comma. It's a game, isn't it?
I meant to finish para 3 by suggesting that you would not ask an artist how many times they 'edit' a painting. The whole creation process is more fluid than that.
I edit, till I am satisfied. It could be 2 times or 20 times.
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.” http://amzn.to/dMBLWW
About a zillion times. Seriously, I reread my manuscripts many times. Here is a tip. Change the font and the size of the font and then reread it. It's surprising how many more errors you will find by doing this. My wife, who is an educator, reads my manuscripts and finds most of my errors.
Last year, I tried writing two books simultaneously. I wrote 4,000 words and then switched to the other book. Each time I switched back, I reread what I had written the last time. I found that focusing on another book for a time purged the first book from my mind temporarily, and when I went back to the first book, I could see problems with the book, especially conflicts, more clearly.
My first published manuscript I redid and edited at least 7 times. I'm close to publishing a novella and already I'm at 3 revisions and I estimate at least 3 more. Others have told me that it took them 8 or more.