Saturday, January 3, 2015

The editing process by guest, Tony Healey

Guest post by author Tony Healey

The story always starts the same – jotted in a notepad with a pen or pencil, revised over and over until the basic plot gels together. Then I think about how it will play out in book length.

On Black Friday I got a good deal with Scrivener, so I used that to plot each chapter out. I split the book into three parts, with five chapters apiece.

When I was happy with my plan for the novel, I saved it as a .doc file and uploaded it to Google Drive. I've used Drive for a long time, because it allows me to work on my projects on any machine. That, and it's pretty close to Word.

I wrote the first draft using Google Drive, then saved it as a .doc file to my computer. I then used Microsoft Word to begin the second draft.

This isn't the editing stage yet, not really. This is the rewriting stage. You go back through it all from the beginning, getting rid of some parts, revising others, adding scenes. This is where it all takes shape for real.

Once I had a second draft, I did a Find/Replace search, setting it to highlight specific words in the document. You can do this by clicking on Find/Replace, click inside the 'Replace With' text box, then go to the formatting options. Select 'Highlight' and choose a vibrant colour you won't miss. Now perform a search for each of these words. This will just highlight them in the text. My reason for doing this was to have them there when I read through it all in the editing stage. These are all examples of things that can weaken your writing, and as you come across each one in your text you must decide if they're necessary or not:
  • then
  • in order to
  • is
  • am
  • are
  • was
  • were
  • started
  • began
  • that
  • like
  • had
  • got
  • so
  • individual
  • just
  • kind of
  • sort of
  • type of
  • I believe
  • specific
  • particular
  • seems
  • saw
  • heard
  • felt
  • asked
  • noticed
  • realized
  • thing
  • up
  • down
  • back
  • around
  • maybe
  • might
  • could
  • may
  • possibly
  • always
  • but
  • actually
  • being
Once I'd done this, read through the book from the beginning, looking for anything out of place, judging each highlighted word to see if needed to go, then when I'd got to the end of the document I did a 'Select All' and changed the highlighting to 'No Highlight'.

Next, I ran my book through a very handy program I have called Stylewriter that analyses your text and tells you how passive it is, the readability, things like that. You tie it in with Word and it will add 'Comments' to it the same way an editor will. As with my highlighting method above, it doesn't make actual changes to your text. Just points out potential issues. I mainly use it to look for incorrect hyphens (I am a complete bugger for these and get them wrong all the time), passivity, cliche phrases overused words, misused words. It does a whole lot more than that, though, depending on what you select. I just keep to these, though. I then go through the document AGAIN (I know!) and address each comment, see if there's anything to change, then when I'm done I just go to 'Delete All Comments'.

I then ran the whole thing through Word's spell-checker. It will often find something you missed, or make a suggestion that, to your surprise, actually improves a sentence here and there.

So let's recap. My process for writing Outland:
  • Outline in Scrivener.
  • Exported to .doc file.
  • Uploaded to Google Drive.
  • First Draft downloaded as .doc file.
  • Second Draft in Microsoft Word.
  • Custom search to highlight specific words (see list above).
  • Pass through Stylewriter.
  • Microsoft Word spellchecker
Now you're in good enough shape to do two things. Send it to readers who are willing to read an early copy and provide feedback (I don't always do this) and send it to an editor. This last one, actually having some professionally edit your work, is non-negotiable. You see, the thing is, you can do all of the above. Run it through whatever program you want but when it comes down to it, you can't beat Jane Doe, Editoress-Extraordinaire, going through your book line by line, kicking your arse for every weak sentence, illegal semi-colon and bad habit.

And you know what? You'll probably do two passes with your editor, if they're good, to catch it all.

Hopefully, if you've passed an early version out to readers, you'll get their feedback about the same time as you get your edited copy returned to you, and you can address both. In either case, when you're totally done with edits, and addressing comments from readers, you're in good shape.

THEN you can hit Publish. Not before.

Disclaimer: This is just my own personal method, one that's evolved over time. What does that mean? Well, things change. I've got better as I've gone along, which means some of my earlier work is in need of a second edition at some point. And you know what, that's perfectly fine. In fact it's better than fine. As indies that what we should be doing. Going back after a year or two and improving our first attempts at novels and stories. Perfecting them. Why not? It's only a case of submitting a new version of a file, which is really the beauty of doing what we do.

As you write, as you hit one milestone after another, you'll develop your own technique. You'll get better and better, trust me. If my own technique, which has developed over time, helps another writer in any way then I'm happy.

Second Disclaimer: Stylewriter, Scrivener are no different to Microsoft Word and Google Drive. They are tools to help you write. They won't write your work for you, won't make it better without your input, your hard work. When you strip these away, it still comes down to two things. You and the blank page. How you fill that page up with words is what is important, nothing else. None of this makes is any less frightening though!

Outland (Far From Home, Book 17) is out March 16th and can be pre-ordered for the promotional price of only 99c

Bio --Tony Healey is a best-selling independent author based in the city of Brighton & Hove in the UK. His writing has been published alongside science-fiction legends Harlan Ellison and Alan Dean Foster. He has also had work appear with Piers Anthony, Scott Nicholson and J.R. Rain.

Most of his works are bestsellers, including his smash-hit science-fiction series Far From Home and his gritty fantasy series The Fallen Crown.
Tony is married and has three daughters. For the latest on his various projects, visit

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