I knew NOTHING about editing before I started my writing journey and I honestly can't believe how much I've learned! I feel that I have a solid editing process now so I think it's about time I share it!
Take a break
I must admit, I find this extremely difficult to do but it really does help! After I've finished writing my manuscript, I'll take a few days away from the work and try not to think about it. Essentially, I want to let my brain forget the book, so that when I edit it I'm looking at it with fresh eyes.
Go through it sentence by sentence
After I've had long enough away from the work - usually 3 - 5 days, I'll open my novel and start from the first line in Chapter One, or Prologue, and simply re-write the line. That's correct. I find this to be extremely helpful and, in the process, I'm completing my second/third/fourth draft. I tend to find that as I re-write the sentence, I'll be able to add more to it - inspiration will strike and the sentence usually ends up being twice as long, or with better words. I highlight the to-be-changed next paragraph in red when I plan to stop for the day, to ensure that I know where I got up to when I continue the next day.
Make notes of general aspects you want to improve
As I'm going through my manuscript, sentence by sentence, I'll make notes on a notepad about the general topics I know need further improvement. Usually, this is character development, world-building, plot twists, synonyms, show don't tell - you get the gist. After I've finished my sentence by sentence editing, which can take a while, I'll then go back through the manuscript and focus on improving the general topics I've highlighted.
Take another break
So you've gone through your manuscript sentence by sentence, you've improved your general topics to the point where you feel you've done enough, and now it's on to the next step. Take another break. You don't want to burn out, and believe me with writing it is all too common, so take another 3-5 days to allow your brain to process all the work you've completed.
Read it from a readers perspective
This is easier said than done but once I've taken another break I'll convert my file to a .mobi file and transfer my story to the Kindle app on my phone. Then, I'll simply read it of an evening like I would any other book. As a writer, we're constantly trying to assess our work, so much so that sometimes we lose the tone of voice and passion completely, so this step is crucial. It's crucial because you need to get a sense of how your readers are going to feel reading this book, like you're reading this book and meeting these characters for the very first time. What would you rate it at the end? What did you feel could have been better? After I've read it, if I have any changes I'll sort them out before continuing on to the next step.
Send to Beta Readers
If you haven't already, make sure you read my post about beta reading, which covers what it is and why it's so important. After I've taken my breaks, I've edited and read and re-read, I'll then send the book to my beta reader. During the beta reader period, I'll try and work on something else, maybe the next book in the series, or something new, or simply take a well-deserved break. Beta readers will pick up on mistakes you might have missed because, let's be honest, when you're reading a manuscript on your computer screen over and over again you're bound to miss something.
Make the changes
Your beta reader feedback is so important. Once I've received the feedback, I'll look at it all and determine what I agree and do not agree with. If I don't agree with something but two or more beta readers have said it, then I'll add it to the 'agree' pile. Then, I'll go back through my manuscript and make changed and edits depending on what the feedback was.
Read it again
Are you starting to realise how long this process? I feel you. After I've made the beta reader changes, I'll read through it again, at this point I would have read through it altogether over six or seven times, sometimes even more. If there are changes I'll make them, if not then that's great!
Now at this point, if there are changes I'll take a break after I've made them and read the manuscript through another time. I still like to do this again, even if there weren't any changes just so that I can be sure that I'm happy with the manuscript. Then, I'll go through the formatting and then publishing processes!