update, writing

Self-Editing: Personal Tricks

Last week or so (time means nothing to me anymore), there were a lot of posts going around about paying for edits and how it is so crucial to not bankrupt yourself for the sake of publishing, so I thought it might be a good time to go through some of my personal self-editing process to take some of the weight off the costs of edits.

Though I will always hold that it’s in any writer’s best interests to have a professional go through your work for content/line edits, that’s not necessarily where you need to start. Make use of critique partners and swapping work, and get a solid handle on self-editing.

None of this is always easy. Unless you’re one of those people who derives enjoyment from deconstructing all of your work (Hi!), the task can be overwhelming or boring or, *gasp* you skip that part.

Critique partners are fantastic, but it can be a challenge to find someone who delivers feedback in a way that meshes with your preferred way of receiving it, or who delivers on time, or who knows enough themselves to point out the relevant weaknesses.

I have a wonderful critique partner. I’m sure we curse and swear at each other over the interwebs, but by the time I finish making my revisions based on her feedback, I know I’m walking forward with a stronger book.

She’s not where I start, though, and my self-editing process has changed significantly over the years. Heck, I would say it’s changed significantly over the last year.

When I first started publishing, my editor at the time (and now my editor again, huzzah!) sent me a gift that has remained at the heart of my process. Susan Bell’s book The Artful Edit gives a fantastic and thorough breakdown of each layer to be considered during edits, from a macro and a micro level. Things like character, plot, conflict, theme, and working down to line edits.

In fact, thanks for the reminder me, I’m going to re=read this book to get a refresher on some of these things now that more of my system has changed.

One of the most common tips you’ll hear is to set your book aside and walk away for two weeks or two months or two years. Give it some time to breathe and distance yourself from it.

This is pretty great and necessary advice. If you jump right back into edits the moment you finish, you’re not going to see what might be missing. Your head is still going to be in the story, where you already know what’s supposed to be there.

It can be hard to set it aside though, so my way of forgetting about it is to draft another book (she says, somewhat facetiously).

When the time has past, my next step is get out a notepad and start reading. Ideally in a format where I can’t make any changes. I don’t want to be nitpicking at things just yet. Turn a blind eye to the typos and awkward sentences. At this point, it’s all about the big stuff.

I go chapter by chapter and take note of everything that needs to be changed. I treat myself as my own alpha reader, giving myself feedback in the way that will most help future me. I flag places where motivation is weak, where emotions are missing or where conflict needs to be tightened up. I can get a big-picture look at my story arc and make sure that all that necessary beats stand out with as much oomph as possible.

Obviously, this can’t all be done in one pass, which is why I do fifteen of them with various depth of focus, but with my most recent round of edits, I found this made a huge difference. I was able to rewrite full chapters knowing what I needed to hit instead. My character development is more consistent and my plot a bit less saggy in the middle.

I have one more major round of revisions to go before it goes to my critique partner, and at that point I know I won’t really be able to see anything else for myself. The rounds of self-edits would be endless, constantly wondering and tweaking and nitpicking to the point where the book can never be released, which is why, for me, it’s critical to have someone waiting to get their hands on it.

What are your self-editing habits? What have you found that works or what doesn’t?

update

EMS Upgrade (cont’d)

I’m afraid to say I’m not quite as far in the newsletter changeover as I’d hoped to be by this point. In part because of some animal health issues that kept us away from home at high stress levels for the better part of last week, but also because of some miscommunications.

newsletter

Not that I don’t have anything to report, however.

I mentioned last week that I am making the move from trusted MailChimp to the fancier dancier ActiveCampaign. So far I have nothing bad to say about the service, but that’s mostly because I haven’t really played with it yet.

For the customer service… I’m on the fence.

Mostly, I’m blown away by how on top of things they are. I signed up for the free trial so that I could get my account set up and everything ready before migrating everyone over from MailChimp. Within two days, I was receiving calls from ActiveCampaign looking to introduce me to their service, see if I had any questions, and to set me up with a longer phone call to go over the different features that would best suit my business.

Wow!

I’d never encountered anything like that before and was super impressed! I looked forward to the longer chat, which involves some screenshare time so I could get a crash course in how to best use the service.

So I book the time, and that night, 6:15, I postpone dinner so I can be at my computer in time for the call.

Now, for the intro call, the phone rang within 30 seconds of the clock rolling over to our arranged time.

This time… 6:20 rolls around…. 6:30…. 6:45.

After forty-five minutes of waiting, I send off an email to follow up and make sure we’re all on the same page about the time of the call. A few minutes later, I receive a reply telling me they had tried the number on file, but it had just kept ringing without anyone answering.

Now, I had my phone right beside me. I’d made sure the volume was up, and there was no one on the line. Also, I was confused about why no one followed up with an email when the call didn’t go through, even if it was a “sorry we missed you!” message.

We tried to arrange another time for the call, but nothing has worked with our schedules, so I’m just going to start with a few links they sent me to try to work it out on my own.

So overall… kind of a wash as far as customer service goes (likely, like with anywhere, it’s just a matter of who you get), but I’m still really excited to try out all the different features and see how this can up my game! That is a big part of my goal for this weekend, so I should have at least a few more updates for you by then.

update

Leveling Up: EMS-style

There comes a time in every business-owner’s life when they need to say farewell to the vintage-newspaper-printtrusted systems they used when they first started out and move on to something a bit more expensive, yes, but more importantly, more focused and versatile.

One of the first pieces of advice I received when I started my business was to start a mailing list. Never rely solely on someone else’s platform. Amazon can go glitchy, Facebook can shut down. Better to have your own foundations for people to find you.

It’s very good advice. In fact, it’s some of the best advice out there. It’s a big part of why I created my own paperback (and eventually ebook) storefront on my author website, and, of course, why I maintain my mailing list for all its ups, downs, and GDPR-purges.

I love sending out my newsletters, too. It’s great to hear back from readers and learn a bit about what they’re up to, what they’re reading, what they’re looking forward to. Up until now, MailChimp has been my trusted companion on all of these adventures, and really I have no complaints.

But I’ve decided it’s time to level up. As of this week, I’m slowly going to be building up a presence through ActiveCampaign, exploring its versatility, it’s resources, and it’s ability to help me better engage with readers. Because that is my first priority. Getting to know the people who take the time out of their day to read my messages. Not only out of a sense of appreciation, but also to better deliver what interests them. It’s a never-ending circle.

My first impressions of ActiveCampaign have been incredibly positive, so as I explore further, I’ll share my thoughts and views on this, my most recent attempt to kick all kinds of ass at my business.

What have you tried lately to shake things up and move yourself up a notch? Share in the comments below!