Monday, March 5, 2012

My self-publising process: 1. Self-editing

For the next few days, I’m going to explain here the steps I’m going through to get Seen Sean? out the (virtual) door. If you’re not interested, please ignore.

Okay, I have a manuscript. It has been through writes and rewrites, storyboarding, proofreading by three different individuals, and two more editing passes by me. In this post, I’ll tell you why I self-edit, and I’ll give a brief description of the final editing passes.

Why do I self-edit? Just one reason: Cost. A professional editor would charge about 2000 USD to work over a 60,000-word manuscript. I haven’t got that much to spend (and Seen Sean? is longer than that anyway), so I self-edit.

After I got the results from my proofreaders (Thanks Becky, Cathy and Andrew!) I printed a full manuscript for myself (single-spaced, two column text, just short of 100 pages) and went through it with a red pen. I hoped that would be my final pass, but alas! there were way too many edits. I knew I would have to do it all again.

But before the final pass, I decided to correct something I saw as I read: I used dashes (em-dashes “—”, not hyphens “-”, not minus signs “−”, not en-dashes “–”) and ellipses (that funny little thing of the three dots, “…”, which my wife pronounces “dah-dah-dah”) a lot, especially in dialog. So I started a pass, in the original computer file this time, to check just those bits of punctuation. As I see it, the dash means an interrupted thought; the ellipsis indicates a drawn out or incomplete thought.

As I got close to the end of that check I realized this: I use dashes and ellipses way too much. So I took the only reasonable course: I went through the entire manuscript again asking whether there was a better way to punctuate each use, and in some cases whether there was a better, more natural way to word the dialog, or in a few cases, action. There was a better way about 90% of the time.

Because of the amount of red ink on the last paper edit, I decided one more read-through was needed. I knew the manuscript was getting close with the punctuation straightened out, but I knew the story needed a final check.

So I formatted the manuscript into a .mobi file and side-loaded it onto my Kindle (a Kindle Keyboard wifi, née Kindle 3). I read Seen Sean? the way I read other people’s books, looking for wording that makes me cringe. I found about 180 problems, plus one (!) misspelling and one or two incorrect names, and noted everything using the Kindle’s highlighting and note-taking feature. I corrected everything, and now the manuscript is ready for the next step.

Stay tuned.

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