How to Edit a Book

By Sophfronia Scott

Editing is a very necessary, yet most maligned step in book publishing. But, as I shared with my students in a recent Business Book Bootcamp class, I believe this comes from both fear and a misunderstanding of the editing process. Editing is the step that makes your book shine, so don't skip it even if the prospect of someone else handling your work has you clutching your manuscript with numb fingers! If you don't hire someone else to do it, you should know how to completely review your book with a critical eye. Here are the 3 levels of editing you'll want to work your way through:

1.) Editing for Content
This is where you'll question whether or not the book "works". Is the material communicated well? Is it organized properly? Are there any missing parts or unintentional repetitions?

2.) Editing for Length
No one wants to carry around War and Peace, so make sure your book isn't any longer than it needs to be.

3.) Copyediting (also considered line editing or proofreading)
This level of editing involves checking punctuation, spelling, grammar and usage as well as cross-references and consistency in how you use key terms.

If you carefully progress through these levels you should end up with a publishable manuscript. Yes, it's a lot of work, but you'll find in the end it's worth it to achieve a book you can be proud of. One last bit of advice: be willing to let go of your work. I know it's hard to cut when you've worked so diligently to produce the words. But in the words of Cornish writer Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (1863-1944), you must be willing to "murder your darlings" and, I say, be confident that more will come again.

© 2010 Sophfronia Scott

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