Switch Modalities

I’ve been doing a lot of work with my editor at Moonfire Publishing lately, finishing up the remaining work on my upcoming summer releases. So that’s where my mind has been. I thought that today I would share one of the best tricks that I’ve been able to come up with for editing your work when you don’t have an editor, and are trying to get a manuscript ready to self-publish – switching modalities.

Editing books is pretty much the bane of the self-published author’s existence. One of the biggest differences between traditionally published books and self-published books is the quality of the editing. You can hire a freelance editor to work on your manuscript, but that can cost thousands of dollars. If you don’t have that kind of money, here’s a handy trick that will help you edit manuscripts on your own.

Editing your own work is so difficult because of a phenomenon called “word blindness.” If you’ve ever tried to edit a story or a novel, you’ll know what I’m talking about. You’ll go over your manuscript again and again, and you won’t find anything wrong with it. But then your work is published, and you realize that some parts of it still have typos, errors, sentences that don’t make sense, and so forth. You were sure they weren’t there when you proofed the thing.

Much of that is a product of composing your work on a computer. Some authors write by hand and then transcribe, and that does work for catching a lot of errors. But it’s also a great big pain in the butt. If you’re a poor transcription typist like I am, it takes forever. Composing on a computer is also a lot faster than writing by hand. The problem is that when you compose on a computer and do all your editing on a computer, word blindness is hard to avoid.

The simple solution is to shift modalities. First, compose and edit your manuscript on the computer until you are happy with it. Then switch modalities – print the manuscript out and edit it again, with a pen on paper. This seems kind of silly, but it really does work. When your brain reads through text on paper, the words are processed slightly differently than they are on a computer. So much of your familiarity of your manuscript is short-circuited.

Once you have your on-paper changes, and you will have some, go back into your digital manuscript and update it to reflect those changes. Then print the whole thing out again, and read the printout out loud. Yes, read the whole thing. When you run into issues, and you probably will, mark it up with a pen once again. Then, when you’re through that, update your digital master copy to fix any issues that you found reading the text.

You probably will be surprised at how much better this process will make your manuscript. It’s no substitute for a professional editor, but it should take care of the vast majority of typos, errors, and awkward sentences. It’s time-consuming, especially the reading out loud part, but you can do it yourself and it’s free. With the amount of time it takes to write a story or novel in the first place, the results make it totally worthwhile.

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