If you must self-edit

Harper BlissToday we’ve invited Harper Bliss (the naughtiest member of the LadyLit family) to share her self-editing process. Mainly because erotica must be the worst edited genre out there, and also because, these days, people seem to think they can write down their favourite sexual fantasies, upload a poorly formatted word document, slap a picture of a half-naked woman on the cover, and wait for the money to roll in. (Maybe they’ll make a few bucks, but it’s hardly the basis for a sustainable career in writing.)

Amazon is flooded by atrocious erotic e-books crawling with spelling and grammar mistakes, giving self-publishing in general a really bad name. The main reason to not use a professional editor is, of course, money. Today’s post is not meant to promote self-editing, but, hey, we all know it happens. So, if you’re going to do it, at least try and do it right.

We’ve asked Harper to break down her self-editing process from first draft to submitting a manuscript.

1. First, I write. That’s the easy part. Usually when I’m writing, I don’t edit. I try to get the story out without looking back. Of course, I write stories of no longer than 10.000 words so there are usually no big continuity issues to deal with. After I’ve finished the first, very rough draft, I go over it and eliminate the most glaring mistakes.

2. I wait. I don’t mean I sit around twiddling my thumbs. I just focus on something else than the story. I usually start another story or have a previous one to work on. I try to give it a week before going back to the first draft, but whatever’s long enough to get your mind off it is fine.

3. This is where the real work begins. I go over the story and basically edit and re-write it until I can live with it. Here’s a very good checklist on editing drafted by the mighty Selena Kitt. It’s meant for editors of stories on Literotica, but I believe everyone can benefit from it. After a while, you’ll find these things will become part of your routine and you’ll automatically implement them.

4. The next step is reading my story out loud. This is excellent for catching forgotten words and spelling and grammar mistakes. Of course, reading erotica out loud can be a bit daunting, which is why I use Scrivener’s built-in speech tool. The voice is a metallic computer voice, but it works fine. I check if the words flow well and keep my ears open for clunky sentences.

5. By this time I usually get very chuffed about my story, only to have my hopes dashed in the next step. I read it away from the computer. I used to print my story and scribble in the margins, but now I just send it to my iPad and read it on the Kindle app. It allows me to make notes I can actually still read afterwards. It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you’re away from your computer screen.

6. At last, it’s time to share the magic. It’s not for everyone to see yet, though. This is where the ‘first reader’ comes into play. This can be your wife, your best friend, your badminton partner, whoever really, as long as they can give you an honest opinion (and speak your language.) However, this is not the time for harsh criticism yet. Your first reader is someone you have a personal relationship with and they will usually sugarcoat things for you a little. Don’t worry though, that’s why we have beta-readers.

7. Before sending the story  to my beta-readers, I accept or reject the changes my first reader suggested and then send the story to my Kindle. I like to read it on different devices, but if you only have one, paper will do. Making notes on the Kindle is not easy though (not on mine, anyway), so I keep a notebook and jot down what I want to change.

8. Beta-readers. The life-blood of self-publishing. I’ve been working on a lengthy ode singing the praises of these wonderful creatures who invest their time (always a precious thing) in reading our stories. I worship my beta-readers, but, because of the nature of our relationship, I have to keep my distance. I’m the first to admit it’s not easy to find good beta-readers (and I’m always looking for more), but they are out there. On forums, Yahoo groups, blogs… the internet is your friend. (Here’s a very informative blog post on finding beta-readers.) Find them, befriend them and be nice to them for the rest of your life.

9. The last step is accepting or rejecting my beta-readers’s comments. Ideally, this would be your process before either submitting your manuscript to your publisher or sending it to your professional editor. Either way, if you must self-edit, do yourself, and especially your readers, a big favour by not writing something on Monday and publishing it on Tuesday. And NEVER publish something that has not been read by at least one person who is not your mother, spouse or another extended family member. Never.

Happy editing!

PS Only a few hours left to get all of Harper Bliss’ books for the rock bottom price of $0.99!