Doing a good editing job is time consuming, as all editors and many authors know. However, what many authors may not consider is that, the better your self-edit is, the less you’re likely to pay for a professional edit. It ultimately depends on who your editor is and whether or not he/she offers cheaper rates for well-written manuscripts (some quote a set fee per word or page regardless of the ‘error count’).
At Fireblade Publishers, we reward authors who take the time to do a thorough self-edit by giving those authors cheaper editing rates. As such, our fee per word depends on whether your manuscript needs a light, medium or heavy edit, with light being the cheapest.
Here are a few tips to help you self-edit your work so you can save money on your professional edit:
1. Most writers have that ‘thing’ they do without even realising it. Maybe your finger has a nasty way of hitting the wrong keys for a certain word (for me, it’s typing ‘teh’ instead of ‘the’, or leaving out the ‘h’ in ‘his’), or maybe it’s a spelling error you make frequently. Instead of correcting these one by one as you read, you can do a ‘find’ and ‘replace all’ for them. This will make your self-edit go faster, and you’re less likely to miss other errors, because your brain starts to gloss over some if there are too many.
To open the ‘find/replace’ box in MS Word, hit Control-F on your keyboard.
Be careful when using these functions… You need to think carefully when you insert the search and replace parameters. For example, if you want to change a word, consider whether or not that word forms part of another word. For example:
Replace with: got
‘Gotten’ is USA English for the UK’s ‘got’. To change all usages at once without it also changing ‘forgotten’ to ‘forgot’ (in some cases, it will even make a correctly spelt word gibberish), click ‘more options’ and then the option to find and replace ‘whole words only’.
2. Every author has that ‘thing’ he/she consistently writes wrong, even though he/she knows it’s wrong, and then it has to be edited out at the end. My ‘thing’ is ‘led’ – e.g. Jones led the way, and the rest of us followed. Not: Jones lead the way… For an unknown reason, my fingers insist on typing ‘lead’ – I suspect that, in cases like these, our brains are too caught up in the creative flow to bother with things like spelling. This is another good reason to self-edit before anyone else reads your manuscript.
‘Lead’ isn’t a word that can be replaced with a replace all, because sometimes ‘lead’ is correct, depending on the sentence structure and tense used, and whether or not it refers to the chemical element. To make sure you don’t miss any, and to make your self-edit go faster, use the ‘find’ function to find each usage in the manuscript, then replace it manually where necessary.
3. Use MS Word’s ‘find’ function to find all cases of STO (stating the obvious), such as ‘shrugged his shoulders’ (which should be ‘shrugged’) and ‘try and’ (which should be ‘try to’), and amend those before you start reading. Note that you can only do a ‘find’ for ‘try and’, and need to correct it manually, or any words ending in -ry and followed by the word ‘and’ will also be changed. This will save you time, and will also ensure that you don’t miss any. Do the same for anything else you consistently write wrong.
4. It’s also a good idea to set MS Word’s spelling and grammar to autocorrect. This will pick up many common errors, and will correct the incorrect word when you hit ‘space’ to type the next word. Be careful with spell check, though, as it is not always right and can never replace a human editor.
5. Brush up on your language rules. For the things you aren’t sure about, it’s a good idea to either research those rules or purchase a guide that you can keep on hand to look up any rules you’re unsure of. Oxford Dictionaries online is a good place to do your research, but be sure you have the correct version of English, as Oxford has online rules for both UK and USA English, amongst others.
6. Have a friend read your manuscript to pick up any blatant typographic or spelling errors you may have missed during your self-edits. Note that most friends are not a replacement for a professional, however, unless said friend happens to be a professional editor.
Oxford Dictionaries (http://oxforddictionaries.com/)
Note that you need to select the version of English you need. You can find this on the dropdown menu just to the right of the green ‘go’ button.
The Editors’ Bible (http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/234328)