So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads. – Dr. Suess.

One of the more common questions that I have come across is how do you edit? As a writer, this is one step in the process that you cannot afford to skip.

The editing process takes place in several steps, and it does involve re-reading the manuscript multiple times. Each time, there is a different focus. This article is a barebones guide on how to edit your piece of work. It does not include sending it to a professional proofreader, but I highly encourage that you do so.

There is a couple of universal steps to editing. They do not have to be done in order, but I find most people usually do.

Take a Break

This suggestion is a luxury that some of us do not have. Many of us are on a deadline as we are publishing trilogies and series. I found if I place some distance between the time that I finished my first draft and the time that I started to work on my second draft, I am more likely to find my mistakes. I look at it with fresh eyes.

When I went and edited Undercover Desire, there was a two-month span between when I finished the manuscript and when I took up my proverbial red pen. Are two months too long? Don’t fret. Even a simple jaunt to the restroom or kitchen would be acceptable.

Re-read Your Work

I know. You think that you just wrote a masterpiece in one sitting and that there is nothing to improve. I think that maybe all authors have some form of hubris. They believe that their work is better than the book that is next to theirs.

Despite what anyone thinks, there is always room for improvement. To start, you must re-read your work. The most common form of this is to print it out. The writer will read it over and take a red pen to it as he or she marks his or her mistakes or adds notes in the margins.

However, that is not the only method. For example, I use a text to speech program. I find that if I hear it out loud than I can determine if something needs to change. There is no right and wrong way of re-reading your manuscript as long as you get it done.

Be Ruthless

The final universal step is to edit your work. Chop some of the words and, yes, even paragraphs. In Naked Desire, there was a full chapter that I removed. As creative individuals, we tend to look at our work as our “baby.” If we remove the bloated fat from our manuscripts, our words and plot shine.

And, my final piece of advice is to not over-edit. When you are sure that your style flows well, the plot is concise and easy to follow, and that you corrected all your grammar mistakes, then send it into your proofreader.

There will always be a sentence that you think you can fix. I released Undercover Desire almost a year ago. When I look at the first paragraph, there are still some elements that I can polish. I’m sure that looking back upon a published work in a year or two will invoke the same thoughts in other authors.

Remember, a book is only as strong as the editing process. If a writer skips or merely glances over the work, it will show in the publication.

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Lydia lives in New York with her husband, a dark fantasy novelist, as well as their daughter. They are regular contributors to several charities, including the rescue of exotic cats from abuse.

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