Five Stages of Editing your Book

I used to get pretty confused by the random terminology that publishers and writers use to describe the editing process. What’s the different between an edit and a copy-edit? Do I really need all of these stages? What on earth is everyone on about?

Step 1: Writing the book

This is Draft 1 to Draft “I lost count”, and then Edit Version 1 to infinity…and you’ve written the ending! It’s done!

Now what?

Step 2: Alpha read

When you’re ready, you hand it over to someone (either a friend or an editor) to have a first read. This is usually the plot holes, “does this make sense?” and “is my story any good?” This can be a complete change of plot, or entire sections deleted; or this can be smaller details, where you’ve got most of it right already. The story might go back to draft versions at this point, or may go on to the next stage…

Step 3: Beta read

This is the character motivation, minor plot holes, small details; where the gun got left in the house yet is suddenly to hand; you forgot to mention that the hero has any skills at animal-taming yet is suddenly amazing at it; they’re in completely the wrong sector of space to have seen that star formation; and why on earth is he talking to her? He hates her! This is where the story and plot are ok, with no major holes, but there might be some smaller flaws.

That said…I’ve had stories at the beta-read stage that have needed chunks added or even complete re-writes! Every reader brings something different, and you might find that even when a story is finished…it’s not. So these two stages can be interchangeable, but you’ll usually find things have a flow; your first readers will pick up on the plot holes, and then the things will get smaller and more minor as you polish your work.

Always remember, throughout the alpha- and beta-read (and even the copy-editing stage) that you are the author: you have final say in what happens to your story. That doesn’t mean you should always dismiss ideas – take the time to think about them, because the reader has made that comment for a reason. You might dislike what they are saying, but at least give the comments the benefit of the doubt, and have a reason for their dismissal – even if it’s “I want it this way”.

Step 4: Copy-edit and proofread

This happens when you’ve got the final version and you’re happy with your story. A copy-edit is the sentence structure, the sense, the wording; a proof is spelling and any grammatical mistakes you may have made. Please, please don’t skip these stages. Even if you don’t get an external proofreader to look at your work, do a final read yourself; change the font, read it backwards, put it into e-book format…do something that means you’ve had a chance to spot that “teh” and the words that are spelled correctly but male no scent. My personal shout-out is Red Pen For Hire; I get them to check over any work I’m sending as a submission, and they also edit my fiction. When you think you found all the mistakes, and then get the copy back with a lot of notes and highlights…trust me, it’s worth it!

Step 5: Submission or publication

And the final step, hopefully, is sending your work out into the world. This could be self-publication or could be submission; either way, it’s getting your writing over to a wider audience!

If you’re submitting to a publisher, make sure you read their guidelines and follow what they want – try reading 5 Questions To Ask Before Submitting Your Short Story for some good tips. If you’re self-publishing, make sure your work is the best you can make it, and have a look at Self-Publishing and Book Cover Design for some really good advice there.

In either case – be proud of your work! It’s finished!

Green Sky & Sparks

by Kate Coe


Find yourself transported to a different world. The author really draws you in with her descriptions. I felt as though I could picture the whole landscape.
Sara Ellis

Kate Coe
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