I’m currently revising a book about team building exercises in the workplace, which is a lot let me tell you. But it’s only overwhelming because of all the tasks that go along with revising a second edition book — or any edition for that matter.
I’ve learned a few things this past month that have helped me organize my thoughts and ideas when it comes to editing in general, so I’ve decided to share them with you all.
1. Read through your script
Whether it’s a book, paper, or article you’re editing, read through it first before making any changes. It’s easier to see which sections need to be edited or taken out this way.
Reading your copy will make it easier for you to know the type of content you need to add to it, too. Sometimes it’s hard to follow the tone of other authors, but once you get a feel for their writing style, you can adapt to it quickly.
It’s important to actually know what you’re editing or writing — I mean actually know it and understand it. If you’re looking for sources to contribute to your assignment, you need to be able to give them a summary easily. Nothing is more embarrassing than having a professional ask for details about a story you’re reporting on or a book you’re writing, and you end up providing them with inaccurate information or no detail.
2. Make a to-do list
Once you’ve read your material, you’ll have a greater sense of how much work needs to be done. Even if the workload is small, make a to-do list for yourself. This way, you can keep track of what you have and have not done. Setting deadlines for yourself is also helpful; that way, you can avoid procrastination (don’t lie to yourself, we all do it).
3. Make an outline
My editor suggested this to me, and it’s been really helpful. Instead of getting to certain sections of the book as I go, I made an outline of the entire book instead. Now, the content is organized in the way I want it to be before I try to write multiple chapters in one sitting.
This helped me gather my thoughts, and it made me feel more organized. I had 365 team building activities to sift through, so categorizing them and then placing them in an outline made it easier to decide what to write about and where to put it. It also makes the book flow better. It’ll be easier for my readers to pick activities that relate to their teams.
4. Check all facts and update all research
It’s common to have facts in nonfiction books. It’s one of the reasons books are revised. But, just because a fact was published before doesn’t mean it’s still accurate. Always double-check. It’s embarrassing to publish inaccurate information, and it looks bad, too.
If there are facts in your paper, book, or article that are more than five years old, then I would update them. There is an abundance of research on just about every person, place, or thing on the internet, and chances are new studies have been published on the topic you’re writing about.
5. Pace Yourself
Deadlines are hard, but don’t lose sleep over a project — unless it’s due the next day. Start early, and be productive; that way, you can give yourself time to take breaks in between editing long sections.
It’s easy to overlook small errors because you’re tired or not focused, which leads to more mistakes that you’re suppose to be catching. So, take as much time as you need on parts that you think need it, and don’t try to rush your work.
6. Remember the basics
Of course, don’t forget your basic writing and editing skills — grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, and if you’re a reporter, AP Style. If you aren’t sure about a hyphen or the spelling of a word, look it up online on Merriam-Webster’s website. It’s the most accurate for spelling. English websites are also great guides for the rest, and AP Style has it’s own guidebook for journalists, but you can see a brief overview of the main points here. Utilize your resources, in print or online, and trust your gut feeling. If you think a sentence sounds wrong, then rewrite it.
Editing and writing big projects can be a little overwhelming at the beginning, but remember to breathe and take your time. Not rushing through your work gives you more time to think creatively and come up with more ideas. I thought of some of my best ideas when I wasn’t staring at my MacBook or rough draft.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, too. You can ask professors, editors, or your peers who have experience for guidance on big projects. It’s nice to get ideas from other people. They might give you the perfect idea you’ve been looking for or catch a small error that you overlooked.
Revising any project takes a lot of time from what I’ve learned so far. I’m used to banging projects out in two days or less, which is why I felt so behind and overwhelmed at first. But I realized I needed to take my time and ask my editor for advice when I felt stuck.
Now, I’m almost finished with my team-building book. Next week, I’ll fine-tune it before I send it back to my editor, which I wouldn’t have completed so smoothly if I hadn’t organized my time and taken advantage of all the things I just talked about above.
Oh, one more MAJOR tip: don’t ever send your work back to an editor (or someone higher than you) without proofreading the whole thing first — it’s unprofessional. It’s OK to have a few minor mistakes in your copy, but you were editing the project for a reason, not making it worse.
Have fun, and happy revising!