Saturday, 11 April 2015


This is going to be a short and sweet post because I am currently undertaking the second round of edits on 'Vengeance'. Any of you second + bookers will know how consuming this is. For you newbies, rewrites and edits take almost as long as the original writing - if not more.

Writing 'The End' at the end of your story is a bitter sweet triumph. Seven novels in, I now reserve the popping of the champagne cork for the actual publish date; instead I buy in the quality coffee, a bulk supply of Jaffa cakes and A4 plain paper.

So editing. It's a difficult beast to wrestle. Everybody I've ever spoken to in the indie publishing field agrees that a professional edit is essential to avoid public devastation in the review game. I agree absolutely. Readers have an amazing ability to spot a type error or grammar error at a hundred paces.

But here's the real pain of an edit, and it's not that someone helpfully rips apart your beloved MS, it's the cost. For a full professional edit on an 80,000 word manuscript you can pay anything between £400 and £1000.  A perfectly reasonable amount considering how many hours of somebody else's life a complete edit and commentary takes.


The sad fact is, most indie published books will be lucky to sell 30  copies a month, and because of a whole other blog post of reasons, most indie books have to fight their way on the $0.99 platform, which Amazon penalises with a 30% royalty. I guess, by now, those more mathematical than me have worked out that to just cover the editing costs alone, you need to sell ..... one hell of a lot of books! I mean, you have to be selling at the same level as the blockbusters.

So what can you do? You can reduce your editing costs substantially (I pay around £200 for an 80-100 word edit) because I have proved with my editor that I'm not a big job. I ensure that my MS is in a state that makes it a relatively 'easy' job that doesn't take a lot of their time.

Here's how I do it, and as ever with my 'advice' posts, I'm still living and learning, and making those big old mistakes, so this isn't expert and I haven't perfected it all yet - not by a long way, but the more I do it, the better I get at it.

1) I PLAN and PLOT out my books carefully, minimising plot inconsistencies as much as possible.

2) I accepted my weakness in never learning formal grammar (80's empathy, write a diary entry type of English education) I purchased  a grammar book and I tried to learn it, cover to cover. I learned why we actually use commas and punctuation - and no, it's not where you naturally breathe or pause; it's all to do with clauses. LEARN YOUR CLAUSES!

3) Follow, with diligence, the their / they're / there / its / it's / you're / your checklist - every time any of these are used in a sentence, stop and double check - and then triple check. These are the MOST COMMON ERRORS, and unless you consciously attack them, they will slip through.

4) Put your MS onto 140-150% ZOOM and edit it big - I know it will look ugly and you'll want to look away, but it makes you read your MS sentence by sentence and makes smaller, minor errors like possession apostrophes and the list above, a lot more obvious. It stops you scanning, which we all inevitably lapse into.

5) Complete your primary edits AS YOU GO. At the beginning of each writing session, start by heading back over the section you read before. This will not count as a full first edit, but it is great for the first stage of snagging those pesky errors, putting you in a much better place for your first rewrites, and it is relatively painless.

6) Make a proper CHARACTER LISTS / NOTES as you go, you'd be amazed how hard it is to keep track of those minor extras. Note any details you give, such as eye colour, hair colour, tattoos - you'd be amazed how you can slip like that.

7) Get some A4 paper and after the first edits of each chapter, write out a quick set of notes on what is happening and any threads that need to go throughout the rest of the MS. UNDERLINE THREADS in red, so it makes easy reference, these threads might be symbols, objects, concepts etc. Don't write too much for each chapter; just a few lines 5-10.

8) Eradicate any non necessary words. Read sentence by sentence. Is every word needed? Can you SIMPLIFY and REORDER the sentence structure so it reads with more clarity and simplicity. This doesn't mean you should eradicate some of the longer, more poetic imagery or sentences, but use them sparingly to create the biggest impact; they're precious.

9) Check that DIALOGUE PUNCTUATION. If you're not sure then learn once and for all how punctuation works in dialogue clauses.

10) EDIT SOBER and fresh. As Hemmingway once reportedly said, 'Write drunk, edit sober'. To be honest, I try to do both sober now; it's less of a hangover in all senses. Of course when I embarked on my first novel it was the romance of the paperback writer, late nights into early mornings, bottles of red wine and glasses. Now, you're most likely to find me writing early in the morning with the fresh coffee, freshly showered and ready for 'work'. As a result, my writing is much cleaner (in all respects LOL) I now save the red-wine for the inspiration moments, the note-taking and the poetry first drafts :)

When all of this has been done, then it's time to find an editor who will be brutal and honest. If you've already been brutal and honest with yourself, then their lives will be easier and it will cost you less in all senses.
Remember, it is NOT your editor's job to take your drunken, inspired, creative outpourings and tidy them up into a novel that is readable and five-star worthy; they're there to edit, not re-write.
 Also, a small caveat, this post has not been edited, and so the errors in it go to serve my point LOL.

So, fellow writers, I'd love to know how you approach your edits? Drop your advice in the box. Feel free to disagree. Living and Learning.


  1. A great post, and just what I needed right now. I'm learning all about this first-hand at the moment!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Angeline. So pleased that you are doing it! Congratulations. I wish I had known now when I was starting off LOL You'll probably guess that this post comes from a lot of steep learning curves. Wishing you lots of luck with your writing project and keep me updated @KnightTrilogy. All the best.