Write Right: 5 Steps to Navigating the Editing Process

For a month last summer, I lived alone in Florida and spent eight to twelve hours a day editing my book, “The Vestige.”  I gained a new level of “author” status when the local Starbucks baristas recognized me, remembered my drink order and offered glances of genuine concern when I sat down at my usual table by the window. Their concern was probably valid. I might have gone a bit crazy during the time of seclusion, that is, if you consider publicly crying when my own book characters die a little weird. However, the time I spent editing the manuscript allowed my book to be published only four months after it was signed to Evernight Teen Publishing.

Editing is an exhausting process.

To help me cope, I separated this tedious, but necessary, process into five, easy-to-manage steps, all of which lessened the chaos of proofing, connected grammar revisions to idea development and produced a clean, well-structured manuscript fit for a bookstore’s shelf.

Before we walk through the steps of editing (and relatable New Girl gifs), let’s chisel, engrain, concrete (you get the idea) the following three points into our brains:

-        Purpose always trumps principle.

-        Purpose is power.

-        Purpose yields proof of an intentional message and presentation.

Books and curriculum are accessories to their messages. Once a message and target audience are understood, edits occur with more ease.  If a written work has a brilliant message, its typographical errors will be overlooked. On the flipside, if a book is perfectly proofread but doesn’t contain a valuable message, it won’t be a success.

Questions for thought: WHY is your writing significant? WHAT does it say? WHO is it for?

Idea Development:

As stated above, purpose always trumps principle. To determine a written work’s purpose, answer the following questions:

1. What need does the manuscript meet? 

2. What is one word that best describes the manuscript?

3. Describe the person who would be interested in the written work. What is their age, gender, background, likes and dislikes?

4. What is your desired response from readers? What do you want them to gain from reading the manuscript?

Once you answer these questions, you should be able to pinpoint the manuscript’s audience, message and purpose, all of which will be used to unify the project and shape its branding.

Structural Revisions:

Unlike idea development, structural revisions are straightforward and work to answer one question: Does the format make sense?


o   Headings

o   Sub-Headings

o   Chapter Format

o   Transitions

o   Table of Contents

o   Included Resources (work pages, quotes, etc.)

Paragraph & Line Edits:

Once a message and concept have been focused and developed, the tedious task of paragraph/line editing begins. Think of this stage as the post-construction clean up: You’ve built the house. Now it’s time to sweep up the debris, vacuum the floors and scrub away the dust.

Line Edit Checklist:

o  “That” is often unneeded. Delete the word as much as possible.

o   Limit amount of words ending in –ing and –ly.

o   Ensure paragraphs begin with different letters.

o   Reword for sentence variability. Within a single paragraph, there shouldn’t be more than two sentences with the same format.

o   Check grammar for accuracy.

o   Fix spelling errors.

o   Showing vs. Telling: Does the writing show you the action or state it?

o   Omit passive wording to give the manuscript an active voice. Example: “I do” not “I’ve done” or “I’m doing.”

o   The big edit: Cut excess words. Make the writing concise.

Copy Edit:

The main goal of a copy edit is to maximize a manuscript’s accuracy and readability.

Questions to ask yourself when copyediting:

-        Is the book’s language free of errors?

-        Are the included facts accurate?

-        Does the writing read with ease?


Congratulations. You’ve reached the final stage of the editing process. Are you crazy yet?

When proofreading a manuscript, double-check the concept’s strength, look for any missed typos and ensure overall perfection. Once you’ve proofread, send the book to a secondary editor and ask for feedback.

If you have questions about editing, leave a comment below!