for the Writers

My 6 step process to editing a book


I passed the writing phase for “I Know You Like a Murder” and was on to the editing phase. When asking writers further along in the writing journey, I found that most don’t have a step-by-step system for their editing, they just read through and edit whatever they see needs fixed.

I collected a list of editing resources for everyone who might need it, and then I set out on figuring out my editing system. This isn’t necessarily the best system and it’s not necessarily the one that will work for you, but this is a first step for me – and maybe for you – to finding the system that works for us as individuals.

Note: The items I link to in this post are free online resources. Though some have paid options, I used the free version and it was very helpful. 

1) Edit what I already know needs fixing

When we’re writing, we’re supposed to just keep writing. Not stop and edit as we go. And inevitably as I go I realize there’s something that doesn’t work for the story that I need to change a couple chapters back or whatever. So while I write, I make note of it on my Trello board (a great free task manager system, check it out). So my first step in the editing process is going to that Trello board and seeing what needs done, then doing it. Easy peasy.

2) Edit what’s boring

It’s more than just what’s boring, but that’s what I’ve found is easiest to track what I’m wanting to change. I read through the story and think – where am I bored? Where does the plot fall flat, or the characters get annoying, or the wording just not interest me? Those parts I change, or even remove. Then I re-read through the story again with this new draft and ask again – where am I bored?

3) Get rid of blehh words

Then I look at my list of most frequently used words. I do this right in my Scrivener software (this costs money, but you can do this step for free with this online text analyzer).

You’ll see “the” “and” and “a” used alot of course. But look for other boring words, words that suggest lazy writing. For me, “was”, “get”, and “here”, were much overused and I found myself changing those sentences alot. But I spent an entire day going through the list of boring words to see which ones were actually problematic. Besides that, look for words you overuse that maybe you don’t want to – maybe you describe everything as “glorious” and you should switch it up to “magnificent” or “stunning.” Or maybe you just need to find some way to show it’s glorious without telling the reader 😉

Another thing to look for is something your narrator or protagonist wouldn’t use personality-wise. For instance, my narrator used “maybe” alot in her sentences. Only, that’s not the narrator’s character at all. My narrator is actually very forceful, hyperbole, over-the-top, absolute. Not wishy-washy “maybe”ing around the statements. So I took out alot of “maybe” too.

4) Hemingway Editor time

This may have been my favorite tool I found. I check the readability grade isn’t ridiculously high for some obscure word. And I see all these potential sentence-level problems color-coded that I can look through and change as needed.

5) Use that program spell-checker

Hey, I might miss something. In fact, I say “alot” alot instead of “a lot.” You probably noticed 😉 That’s where Scrivener or Microsoft Word’s spell-checker comes in handy. I quickly run through it and make sure I didn’t miss anything grammar or spelling related.

6) Hear someone else read it

Maybe you don’t have a person to read it, and that’s fine, because you can have a robot read it. It’s like Siri but for your book 🙂 Maybe this step should have come earlier, but I wanted to save this as my final fail-safe type step. I think it’s perfect, now let’s see if it is. Let’s hear someone else read it. Let’s see where it sounds awkward or jumbled, and let’s see what I wouldn’t want to hear someone else reading. Then of course I changed whatever felt weird there.


And that’s it. After that, I got ready to send the book to beta readers. I’ll do a post about that “got ready” part, because that wasn’t particularly simple.

What’s your steps for editing or resources you use? Would love to hear in the comments below.

6 thoughts on “My 6 step process to editing a book”

    1. I’ve heard Grammarly is helpful! Didn’t try it this go-round, but maybe I can do that before I send to my second round of beta readers 🙂 Thanks for the recommendation

  1. I’m in the middle of editing my second book, and boy did I learn a lot from writing the first one! Anyway, I do have an editing process, but I think it’s an organic, one as well.

    After writing my first draft, I sent it out for friends to read and then I went through and considered their comments and edits. I remember someone saying that sending your draft our early to peers is helpful and I’d have to agree. I wish I had done it with the first one, but I was terrified by the prospect.

    Their insights were valuable and let me know that I had “something” and that it was worth moving forward. So, I am now in the process of going through my own edits and ideas based upon their comments that require futher thought and my own ideas of structure and basically being crazy, trying to make it the best possible.

    I also decided I needed to brush up on a good ‘how to write’ book. Luckily I found Stein on Writing and apparently, he’s supposed to be a big deal in the editing world and dipping into that here and again, gives me something new to consider or gives me assurance I’m on the right track.

    Oh, and then I’m going to give it to more folks to read again. But I’m not there yet. GAH! Editing!!!!

    (By the way, I think we’re in the same FB group (Nicole’s), so that’s how i found you :))

    1. Yes, we are in the same group! Nice to “meet” you in the WordPress world 🙂

      Absolutely, sending to friends is important! I chose to send to friends at the end of this editing process I outlined, and now that I have their feedback I’ll go more or less through this process again and using their feedback, and then I’ll send to other friends for a 2nd (hopefully final) go-round. So much process! lol.

      I haven’t read Stein’s On Writing yet, I’ll have to look into it. But writing books are great for a mixture of inspiration, motivation, and practical tips to get better. Love it!

      You’re ahead of me in your editing process it sounds like, but it’s always a learning process 🙂 and like you said, it definitely is very organic too.

        1. Hahahahaha, deadlines are difficult. I usually commit to a certain amount of time each week dedicated to making progress. I figure as long as I’m moving forward consistently, then I’m eventually going to reach the goal, so it’s something 🙂

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