WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BOOK EDITING

BY NATASHA CHITIMBE

I remember the day I was thrown in, against my will, into the deep and amazing ocean of editing. My close friend had no idea that he was introducing me to a world that I would eventually fall in love with. That was over five years ago and I have gone on to edit more than 20 books. Now before you go all open mouthed and eyes widened on me, this was mostly job on training. I don’t therefore brag to be the best editor there is, (yet!) I am simply a lover of words, proper sentence structure and well written work, so as an editor I make sure that I do my best to get a writer’s work ‘shelf’ ready.

I have compiled, below, a few things that will help you understand more about what this editing is all about. These include some of my mostly asked questions asked by clients I have worked with, my personal hacks and what I have learnt over the years.

  1. WHAT IS BOOK EDITING?

Book editing is simply the final process in getting a manuscript shelf ready. It involves cutting out, eliminating jargon, cleaning up, restructuring sentences, and making it bearable, clear and easy to read and understand.

 

  1. WHY DO YOU NEED AN EDITOR?

Well, because every writer needs an extra pair of eyes to look through their work. Also, because people will notice the mistakes, wrong grammar and those annoying running sentences, wrong spellings, unnecessary spaces and everything else that can be spotted.

Every writer needs an editor for these two reasons:

  • CREDIBILITY: unless you have a name that will sell your book regardless of it being full of errors, a well edited book will earn you credibility.
  • PROFESSIONALISM: for your work to go places you need it polished and bearable to read. It shows that you are a serious person.

These two elements combined say: here is my work, I had it edited because I am a professional, I care about my work, I can back up my facts because they were double checked .

 

  1. THE ROLE OF AN EDITOR IN YOUR MANUSCRIPT

An editor does not exist to re write your work, but to simply polish it up and make it ready for the public. An editor looks at your work, cover to cover. He/she is responsible for every spelling, word, sentence structure, flow of content, double checking facts such as historical dates, scriptures, quotes,  political and religious…etc.

 

  1. WHEN TO ENGAGE AN EDITOR
  • THE RELATIONSHIP: YOU AND YOUR EDITOR

I have learnt to communicate with my clients every time I start to work on their manuscript. This helps me to get a clear understanding of their vision and message. Therefore, communicate with your editor about your book.(That is if they don’t do it first)

When to engage an editor depends on two things:

  • Genre: different genres demand attention differently. A fiction work, like a novel, can have the editor on board at the start, chapter by chapter, however, non-fiction can be sent after work is completely done or half way done. Know your genre.
  • The Editor: some editors love to work from the very start, chapter by chapter. Others can start editing the book before its complete while others, like my-self, prefer complete manuscript. Know your editor.

 

  1. HOW TO PICK YOUR EDITOR
  • YOUR EDITOR MUST BE WELL READ. Pick someone well read, with a clear understanding and passion about your particular genre. A Novella editor may not do justice to a financial or political piece of work, unless otherwise. A financial editor may not be as passionate or be on their A game when editing a book of short stories and poems.
  • YOUR EDITOR MUST HAVE A TRACK RECORD. They must be able to back up their claim with work done or credible recommender.
  • WHEN IN DOUBT PICK ANOTHER EDITOR. It’s a free country, and at the end of the day it’s your work that goes out there, therefore if you’re not happy with your editor by all means change them.

 

  1. AN EDITORS CHECKLIST:
  • GRAMMAR AND PUNCTUATION. Is this written English or spoken English? Is this the correct spelling?
  • JARGON: can a simpler word be used? Can we simply use ‘confusion’ instead of ‘brouhaha’?
  • SENTENCE STRUCTURE. Some sentences run too long and can be cut. Sentences must be flow well.
  • WRITERS IDEAL THOUGHT VS ACTUAL FLOW OF THOUGHT. Is what the writer communicating what he intends to communicate? Is there a digression?
  • FLOW OF CONTENT. Is content flowing well?
  • RESTRUCTURING OF CONTENT. Are there repetitions? Does chapter one work well as Chapter 3? Etc.
  • DOUBLE CHECKING FACTS AND STATEMENTS. Can the writer get arrested for this statement? Is it a mere opinion or not? Is he quoting someone, is it an original thought? Are the Bible verses correct? Is this the actual Dr. King speech? Facts and statements must be checked.

 

  1. MYTHS ABOUT EDITORS
  • EDITORS HAVE THE MIDAS TOUCH. Editors do not have the magic touch. They work with what you give them. If you put in 30% effort into your work, your editor will work with that 30%.
  • EDITORS WILL DESTROY YOUR WORK. Editors will not destroy your work but will help you make it shelf ready.
  • ANYONE CAN EDIT. Not everyone can edit your work, thus, avoid giving anyone close to you who is just as excited about your work as you are, they will be bias and won’t do a good job, give it to a professional who you can pay.

 

  1. TIPS TO SELF EDITING

ALTHOUGH NOT ADVISED HERE ARE SOME TIPS TO EDIT YOUR OWN WORK

  • READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. Do this a lot till your work reads well.
  • BE WELL READ. Make sure that you have read a lot of books over the years to spot a few glitches in your work.
  • PAY ATTENTION: make sure that you’re constantly attentive to how your work is flowing.
  • GO THROUGH YOUR WORK OVER AND OVER AGAIN. This will help you see things you might have missed.
  • SLEEP OVER IT. Give yourself a few hours of rest before you look at your manuscript, as this will help you look at your work with a fresh pair of eyes.

 

 

There you go. A few things I have learnt while on my editing journey. I wish you all the best in all your writing   endeavors.