How to Edit Your Book

Have you ever written a paragraph in your book, rewrote it, written another paragraph, and then went back and rewrote that too?

And on and on and on….

An hour goes by.

You realise you haven’t written anything at all. All you’ve done is rewrite the same part of your book.

Ouch!

I used to write like this all the time. I spent hours tinkering with my sentences, and I went back repeatedly to perfect them.

This is a terrible way to write, here’s why:

When you try to write and edit at the same time, you’re doing TWO different activities.

The part of your brain that needs to write, to get ideas out of your head and organise them — your internal writer — shies away from your criticism.

The part of your brain that takes your first draft and turn it into something that shines — your internal editor — does his or her best work when you have a complete first draft.

So, when it’s time to write the first draft of a blog post or chapter in your book, sit down, disconnect from the internet, close the door, and write for just 30 minutes.

Don’t stop to edit because you made a typo or mistake or because you need to check something. If you think of something you need to check, write it down down on a notepad and then keep going with your first draft.

Your only job is to get a first draft out of your head.

Later that day, format your work as double-spaced change the font to Courier New and print out. Formatting your work this way is easier on the eye (an old tip I learnt from my time as a journalist).

Sit down at the table with a red pen and read your first draft in one go. Then, reread it and with your red pen write down the edits you want to make above each sentence.

Separating writing and editing into different activities that you do at different times will help you write first drafts faster and publish your later drafts.

It’s what professional writers do.

It’s also what professional writers do.