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Edit Until It Hurts

Updated: Apr 9, 2022

Beginning authors will spend months, sometimes years, writing their book. When they feel it's ready to roll, a best-seller for sure, it hits the editor's desk. When the editor returns their manuscript it's marked with more red than a horror movie.

It's ok. Breathe. This is where the book really becomes great. However, there are some things you can do on the front end to make this process easier. We recommend following these steps before you even send your manuscript in for us to edit professionally.

1. Leave It Alone

Once you've finished writing and you think you have the perfect book, do nothing. I mean nothing. Don't re-read it for the thousandth time. Don't research synonyms on Just leave it alone. For how long? At least 2-4 weeks. Yes, you read that right. Treat it like it doesn't exist. Why? Perspective. You need a break. You need to look at it with fresh eyes.

Once you've taken a break, it's time to edit.

2. Check the Ingredients

Nothing is more frustrating than cooking only to realize you left out a key ingredient. Take a browse through your book and make sure it's all there. Did you include the right illustrations and quotes? Have you covered everything you wanted to cover?

3. You need to take the book's manuscript that you have written and then make it simpler than this title.

Just writing that title hurt my soul, but it's true. Research shows the average American reads at a 7th-8th grade level. That's the reading level of a 12-13 year old. Sometimes we use big words to impress our readers but we end up confusing them. Readers don't like to be confused, but they do like to be challenged. Believe it or not, you can do both.

You may not want to hear this, but your book contains a lot of baggage. Keep it simple. If it means you trim 10 pages off your manuscript but it makes more sense, flows better, and is easier to read, it's worth it. You don't need to make your manuscript dumber. Just clearer.

As you read through your book, analyze each sentence and ask yourself:

  • Is it clear or sticky?

    • Make it simple. You don't want your reader re-reading a sentence or paragraph because they don't understand what you're saying.

  • Does it belong?

    • Just because it's a killer sentence or paragraph doesn't mean it belongs in that chapter, or even that book. Maybe it's something to save for your next one.

  • Can I say it shorter?

    • Trim off the fat. See if you can say it with fewer words. It'll make you choose better more impactful words.

4. Read it Out Loud.

If it sounds awkward to say, it will be equally awkward to read. Why? Subvocalization. By definition, Subvocalization, or silent speech, is the internal speech typically made when reading; it provides the sound of the word as it is read. This is a natural process when reading, and it helps the mind to access meanings to comprehend and remember what is read, potentially reducing cognitive load.

When you read your manuscript out loud you will quickly realize what doesn't work and can quickly edit those speed bumps.

Chances are at the end of the editing process you'll be sick of your book and vow to never write again, but we know that's not true. Be patient. It's ok to set a deadline, but don't allow excellence to die on the altar of your impatience.

5. Know When to Quit

You can edit your book so much it dies on the vine. We believe God put something in your heart to get out. At some point you need to be done and move on. If you've checked the ingredients, simplified, and read it out loud, chances are it's exactly what it needs to be. The copy and grammar edit will clean up the rest.


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