Cost-Effective Editing That Won’t Skimp Out On Quality

Now Brewing: Coffee People’s Tree Hugger Extra Bold. I chose this cup this morning because my campus was voted on The Princeton Review’s Green College Honor Roll. I also felt that conservation related well to the frugality of today’s post and although this cup might not save you a ton of the green stuff, at least the name will make you feel greener.

Although I’ve started writing my second novel, there is still much left to do with my first manuscript, Second Shots, with one of the most important aspects being editing.

As part of my work this summer at CH2M has revolved around editing, the task of editing my own manuscript has seemed daunting. Although I typically love to edit, when it came to Second Shots, I felt that I’d done everything I could do on my own—so it was time to find some reinforcements.

At the suggestion of one of my journalism professors, after finishing the writing of my novel, I set it aside for six months, which put me in October of last year. After the initial break from the writing, I went back into the manuscript and began my first edit, revising it mostly for grammatical errors that I could catch after taking a break from reading it and re-reading it during my final few weeks of writing. Since October I have continued to edit, both on my own and through help of others, but as I am still in college and working fulltime, editing my novel has not been one of the most pressing of my financial commitments. Although I didn’t have the money to dedicate to my novel right-of-the-bat, devoting resources and time to making sure Second Shots got the TLC and editing it deserved has still been a priority for me as a writer over the past few months.

Despite my small college student’s budget, now more than a year after finishing the writing of Second Shots, I’ve managed to send it through more than seven edits by multiple resources.

And here’s how I did it without spending a dime:

The first resource I relied on for editing was myself. You’ll often hear that you are your own best asset and in the world of small budget editing, this is extremely true. Here’s what I did…

On My Own:

  • Turn on Track Changes in Microsoft Word. This may seem a bit redundant, but utilizing this feature in Word is one of the best little known secrets of editing. Being able to see what I change over the periods of all the editing is beyond helpful and allows for easy backtracking if I decide I don’t like something I edited and want to revert back to the original.
  • Buy the most recent version of The AP Stylebook. Although novel writing is not always like journalism, using proper style and grammar is still of importance. This is the Stylebook that through my schooling I’m most comfortable with, but by adhering to any form of style, whether it be Associated Press or Chicago Tribune, will help maintain fluidity and accuracy throughout the novel.
  • Create a “Graveyard Folder.” I originally learned about the writing graveyard concept from attending a talk by Ben Percy, author of Refresh, Refresh a collection of short stories and most recently, Red Moon, featured on Barnes and Noble’s Discover Great New Writers Program for the summer of 2013. One of the main focus points of his talk was the fact that writing is essentially re-writing. Percy shared that he uses a “Graveyard Folder” for pieces of work that he cuts out of his current manuscript. Whenever he cuts something, he saves it into the Graveyard, so that he can refer back to it if needed. I’ve used this idea in my own writing since then and love it. I’ve definitely gone into the Graveyard for inspiration as well as going back into the file to add a piece back in further along in the novel where it fit better. Having all the old ideas and prose in one common location makes editing a lot easier and saves you from losing ideas forever if you get a little too cut happy during an edit.
  • Cut The First Paragraph. This advice I received from one of my creative writing professors and I found it to be surprisingly helpful. As writers we are conditioned to start writing just to start writing but most writers need to write a paragraph or two before getting a grip on the flow. Those first words are really just preparation for the good stuff. By eliminating the fluff at the beginning of my chapters, I found they began to feel much more powerful at the get-go, rather than a few paragraphs (or pages) in.

Your friends can often be the sounding voice you need in life. Your writing shouldn’t be an exception. Here’s how I edited…

With A Friend:

  • Find Your Editing BFF. Often if you read a novel’s acknowledgements page, the author will thank a personal friend for being their official “first eye” when it comes to their writing. I found that having a friend to rely on during the editing process both not only excites me about my manuscript but also provides invaluable feedback. I often find that having my own peers read my writing is more nerve-wracking than anyone else. Finding the “write BFF” to be my first reader was crucial because I needed someone who not only wanted to tell me the good things about the novel, but wasn’t afraid to tell me that that chapter sucked or that my punctuation needed work. Having a friend to count on to be your first set of eyes on your work is likely some of the best free editing advice you can get.
  • Make A Love/Hate List. This old trick works well when using a friend as an editor. We all like to have our egos stroked sometimes, so having your friend list a few aspects that they loved about your manuscript will make you feel good no matter what they choose to write on their “hate” list. The “hate” list probably (if your friend is kind to you) won’t be things they actually hated, but rather points they think you should focus more on or change, which will help you as you move forward.

Being a journalism and public relations student, I’ve taken many writing courses. Luckily for all students, most professors are familiar with writing in some capacity. Here’s how I edited Second Shots

With A Professor:

  • Schmooze Your Favorite Prof. I found that finding ready editors was quite easy for me since my degree was one driven by writing. I had a few professors that gave me valuable feedback through my writing for them so I was comfortable enough to ask if they’d be willing to take a look at some of my personal writing. Most professors are eager to help you succeed, so asking for their help will show them that you value their help and their opinions. The few professors I had edit for me over the years have been very helpful to me in any capacity, whether it was helping me with finding the right wording or looking over a few chapters here and there. Professors or colleagues at school or work are another asset that can provide editing free or at least very cheap.

Although I know that Second Shots won’t be ready to send out to an agent (yikes) before I spend at least a little dough on finding an editor, utilizing some of the cheaper options that writers have available to us.

For additional editing tips and resources check out:

For Effective Prose:

Editing Tips For Effective Writing

For Overall Edits:

Editing and Proofreading

Quick and Dirty Tips For Editing

Here’s To Happy Editing That’s Easy on the Wallet,

Kathryn E. Weast

2 comments

  1. Good to see that you’re keeping this up. When it comes to maintaining a blog, you’re doing waaaay better than I am! Stop by and say hello.

    1. Thanks! This blog has become something I am most proud of and use to promote myself a lot now so thank you for giving me my start back in Comm 320!

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