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How-To Guide to Book Editing Brilliance

Book editing is the ‘magic touch’ that makes all your hard work completing a book, report or other publication worthwhile. Why? Because eagle-eyed editing weaves your content together adding:

  • credibility
  • flow
  • cohesion
  • polish
  • clarity
  • flair.

These are all ‘must haves’ for a successful publication — whether it’s academic, fiction or a business publication. Readers are won over by captivating and compelling writing. Any work simply cannot boast these qualities without meticulous editing.

Readers will accept or reject your publication if it’s lacking the critical elements that make it readable. Book editing gets your manuscript ready for publication with:

  • tight logical structure and organisation
  • powerful character and/or argument development
  • sound plot and exposition
  • clear concise sentence structure
  • natural believable dialogue
  • savvy word choice.

In essence, book editing optimises your manuscript’s chance of being read and seriously considered by publishers and readers. So in this article we give you a helpful how-to guide to ensure editing does your manuscript justice.

Take a break when book editing

Sound counterproductive? It certainly isn’t. You’re close to your work — but effective book editing demands a fresh and critical pair of eyes.  After spending time on your publication, you need some time to come back and do your rigorous review.

Flip the script

Swap your creative writing mindset for serious critical reappraisal. Every word, sentence and paragraph must receive a thorough unsentimental going over. Sure your words may sound brilliant – even illuminating — but the cardinal rule of book editing is: if they are surplus to requirements they must go. This can be challenging for someone as close as you are to your work. But unemotional book editing is the way to go. Only then can you achieve concise and polished content.

Consistency is crucial when book editing

Writing a book or manuscript can take months — even years. Such long time periods make it easy for you to lose track of certain key elements. In fiction this could be plot elements and character traits; in academic writing it could be minor argument details. If you contradict yourself within your content or let gaps slip through the net, your readers will notice.

So prepare for editing as you go by compiling reference sheets. Simple bullet points on key aspects of character, plot, argument or other integral factors in your manuscript. Update these as your book develops. You will find reference sheets an invaluable resource at editing stage, helping you achieve consistency throughout.

Nail your narrative arc with editing

Every writer knows the basic rule that a book needs a clear beginning, middle and end. Yet these are not always achieved in a final manuscript. How can you uphold the narrative arc in your piece of work? Simply keep its three steps at the forefront of your mind while writing. When it comes to book editing, make sure your three structural phases stand out clearly. It is always valuable to get someone unfamiliar with your book to double check this for you. After all, you know what is coming next. But your readers won’t.

Become a pedantic proofreader

Formatting is pivotal to effective book or manuscript editing.  Your format provides a visual framework for your content. So you need to ensure titles, subtitles, fonts and more are working hard at the right task. Besides formatting, you must proofread every section of your content. Let’s step through the different aspects of editing your book’s formatting and content:

  • Cover page: Do not overlook this opening window to your manuscript. You must check your title is spelled correctly and laid out according to relevant publishing guidelines.
  • Spine: Check the content on the spine and book jacket. Also check that all spine content is accurately centred with no ‘orphans’ scattering out onto your covers.
  • Fonts and margins: Ensure you have selected a clear and easily readable font. While you are at it, ensure your margins are consistent and tidy.
  • Headers and footers: Rigorously check headers and footers for spelling errors when editing. Make a mistake in one header or footer, and your bungle is likely to be repeated on every page!
  • Chapter headings, table of contents and index must all be checked for spelling and grammatical accuracy. Be sure too that your table of contents and index match your chapter headings.
  • Check your pictures, tables and descriptions when editing: These are important to your story, business case or academic findings. So be sure they earn their keep by being correctly placed and accurately spelled — and bearing the right data.

Get a fresh, trained set of eyes for book editing

Another option is to hire a professional editor to review your manuscript. This investment can determine whether your book achieves its purpose or gets published if you are submitting it to publishers.