Posted by: reneewildes1 | February 22, 2017

Self-Editing Old Books

With the imminent demise of Samhain Publishing, I and my fellow authors face the big question: What to do with all our books? Many people decided to go indie, self-publish. I can’t afford to do that. I can’t even afford to buy back my covers/back blurbs to reuse. So I’m looking at resubmitting to another publisher willing to take a look at previously published works. I haven’t had to blind-query in years. I had an editor at Samhain who loved me–I’d send a book, she’d send a contract. Worked together seamlessly for almost a decade. Seven books total in my Guardians of Light series.

Now I’m out to seduce strangers, people who don’t know me and are deluged by thousands of other hopefuls all screaming “LOOK AT ME!” *sigh*

So in the interests of beating out the competition, I’m revamping these–yes, already edited–titles with a fresh eye. Why? Because I want them to be the best they can be. I’ve learned a lot since I started writing. Book 1, Duality, came out in 2008. I’ve learned a lot since then. Trends and style preferences change. The market changes. Reader preferences change.

But where to start? My two big requirements? Readability and Marketability

One of the first things I did is go back through my reviews and look at the less-than-stellar comments, to see if any commonalities jumped out at me. And they did. Several people mentioned the creative grammar & phonetic spelling/dialects as being problematic. I know the stories are good, but if people notice the writing instead of the story, it’s a problem.

Duality being Book One is the platform from which to launch a campaign to find a new home for the entire series. It’s going to be my ambassador, my sample, my handshake. In addition to being intimidatingly LONG at over 108K in its original form, it cornered the market in apostrophes and alternative words/phrasings. So my two biggest aims were to cut the word count to under 100K, and smooth out the writing until I disappeared and the only thing left was the Cinderella story of Dara and Loren and the *cough* demon that brought them together.


Now, there are limits to my multi-tasking. I miss stuff if I try to do everything at once as I go through a manuscript. So I have to do multiple passes, forcusing on ONE type of edit at a time. I basically have it broken down to 10 steps:

  • Step One: Reformatting – from PDF to Word, deleting all the old Samhain headers/footers
  • Step Two: Teaching Word spellcheck its new vocabulary so it quit freaking out over my fantasy-world proper nouns
  • Step Three: Tedious apostrophe search, replacing them with whole words
  • Step Four: Find & Replace – searching out modernisms/archaicisms, swapping out fake words & real ones, leaving just enough of them in dialogue to maintain the fantasy flavor while eliminating from the narrative itself
  • Step Five: Activate passive verbs & use contractions where possible (yes for humans, no for elves)
  • Step Six: Cut adverbs, excessive adjectives & unnecessary dialogue tags
  • Step Seven: Cut & Tighten, removing the fat until word count goal achieved (In Duality’s case, to 98K – I cut 10%/10K from it)
  • Step Eight: Recheck punctuation & italics
  • Step Nine: Check appearance – “white space” and “orphans”
  • Step Ten: Reread as a reader, rechecking for smoothness and readability, noting (& fixing) anything that still stops or distracts


Rinse and repeat with each of the other 6 books. (I’m working through Hedda’s Sword now.)

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