Editing in preparation for self-publishing.

It is easy to self-publish and if you use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) you can do with very little expense. I’m talking a few hundred dollars max. Over the next few weeks this blog will cover some of the best/worst strategies for preparing and self-publishing books.


Edit, Edit and Re-edit

You’ve finished writing your book. Here are some great ways to weed out hidden errors:

-          Read your book out loud, with expression!

I really mean it. You will pick up problems where you have used the same word three times in a paragraph and it starts getting a little old. “The sheer magnificence of the magnificent structure was magnified magnificently by the magpies.” You will most likely pick up when you have a person’s name or town’s name wrong or swapped around. In fact, you will pick up so many problems this way it’s scary.

-          Have a software program read your work back to you.

You can download Natural Reader for free, or there is also a paid version if you aren’t happy with the default voices. This is a fantastic way of helping you edit. You will start to hear when a full stop (a period for the Americans) is missing, when a comma is needed, when the sentence just sounds wrong. You will hear if you have spelt something wrong and the spell check didn’t pick it up, like form instead of from, or then instead of the. This won’t help with too instead of to or two, but that’s why you need to…

-          Read a printed copy!

Don’t kid yourself, you will pick up more in ten minutes with a printed copy than you find in hours on-screen. If you think this is not the case, I challenge you to try it. Nothing beats a printed copy.

Overused words? Ready… aim… FIRE!

Some words you think will bring impact to a statement actually have the opposite effect. If your sentence reads, “A very disturbing ripple ran down his spine.” get rid of the “very” because “A disturbing ripple ran down his spine.” leaves emphasis on the word disturbing. “very” detracts from the sentence. Severely limit your use of the following words:

§  Really
§  Very
§  Totally
§  Quite
§  Absolutely
§  Completely
§  Exceptionally
§  Particularly

The easiest way to do this is to search and replace. You need to go word for word as there will be the odd few instances you decide to leave. Tedious, but necessary.

“-ly” words. Literally, annoyingly, stupidly, uselessly overused words.

I read an article explaining the overuse of these unnecessary -ly words and I almost didn’t bother to check, confident I would not have fallen into this trap. Oh dear. When I did a search on some of these words in my manuscript I almost crashed Word! Well maybe not quite, but it was close! A lot of editors will insist you eliminate -ly words entirely. Personally, I think there is room for a few, but very few! Here is how to search for the -ly’s:

·         ly followed by a space
·         ly followed by a question mark
·         ly followed by a comma
·         ly followed by a full stop (period)

Start to, Begin to, Began to, Started to… I can’t even begin to get started on these!

Again, sometimes these are useable, most of the time they need to go. If your character “began to walk across the room”, just say “walked across the room”. Unless they are designated to fall flat on their face and fail to reach the other side of the room, in which case “began” to is fine.

  • Start to
  • Started to
  • Starting to
  • Began to
  • Begin to
  • Beginning to

Here are some other suggestions to look out for.
Either use them REALLY sparingly or not at all.

  • in - followed by an emotion. For example, in disgust, in fright. Your character’s behaviour should show if they are disgusted or frightened. For example: She leapt backwards and screamed in fright. Just – She leapt backwards and screamed.
  • with - followed by with an emotion. Ex: with anger
  • looked/looks - followed by an emotion. Ex: looked amazed
Using too many words too many times to say too many things.

Or better worded:


“The little dog that was lying on top of the blanket…” could have been “The little dog lying on the blanket…”

Words that emphasise something the reader should have picked up on can usually be deleted.

  • Clearly. If the person in the book finds the matter “clear”, the reader will have no trouble working this out, so scrap the word.
  • Obviously (obviously!)

Everyone has their own list of words they use a lot.

Again, if you think this is not the case, don’t kid yourself. You can download programs to search your entire manuscript for how many times you have used each word or phrase.

It’s just, the first time I did this, I just nearly just feinted just at the number of justs I had just added to just about every page.

Do a word search on some of these, but sit down first in case shock sets in.

  • Just
  • Really
  • Very
  • That
  • Then
  • Gasp
  • Gasped
  • Swallow
  • Swallowed
  • Shook his/her head
  • Nodded his/her head.
  • Smile 
  • Whisper
  • Whispered
  • Laugh

Search the internet for articles showing lists of overused words.

Search. Make changes. Search and replace, or search and delete. This is going to take quite some time, but it is worth it. Your book is worth it. Once you are done, read it aloud again. Have Natural Reader read it aloud to you. Get another printed copy and read it again. Edit and make changes until you have made a number of passes without wanting to change a single word.

This is a very tedious process, but I say again, your book is worth it. Happy editing!

Next blog will be about:

Create Space – Create a paperback before you create an e-book

Get Dan O'Sullivan's Trilogy on Amazon

Book 1 - The Fallen
Book 2 - The Guardians
Book 3 - Child of a Guardian and of the Free