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Silver Spring, MD
United States


Stories To Tell is a full service book publishing company for independent authors. We provide editing, design, publishing, and marketing of fiction and non-fiction. We specialize in sophisticated, unique illustrated book design.

Stories To Tell Books BLOG

Editing Your Memoir or Family History Book

Nan Barnes

As a cook prepares a delicious dish she tastes it to make sure that it is just right. Does it need a bit more spice? Does the sauce need thickening? Editing your writing is a lot like that. You have finished a first draft and you want to make sure that you get it just right. The editing process is the way you do it.

The first stage is sometimes called a substantive edit. It is a macro level look at your first draft. Think of this as a time for revision, literally to see your stories again. Sit down with a pen in hand and read your draft making notes as you go. Ask yourself, “Do my stories communicate what I wanted to communicate in they way I wanted to communicate it?” Some of the things you will want to look for as you read are:

  • Does the draft “hang together?” Is it coherent? Are the stories presented in a logically consistent order? If not how might they be better ordered?

  • Are there places which might confuse the reader? How might they be revised to produce greater clarity?

  • Are there places where you haven’t told the reader everything she will need to know to fully understand your story? If so, which details might you need to add to make your meaning more clear?

  • Are there places where you have told the reader too much? Have you gone off on a tangent which has taken you away from the story you wanted to tell? Have you repeated yourself? How will your book flow more smoothly if you cut out some of the excesses?

First, you review the draft yourself then you discuss it with your editor who has also reviewed the transcript of your stories. Together you agree on the clearest and liveliest way to tell your stories.

The second phase of the editing process is a micro edit called a copy edit. The focus here is on the sentence and word level. It is important to copy edit only after the changes made during the substantive edit have been made included in the manuscript. Again, sit down with a pen and make notes on things to be changed. Look for:

  • Undesirable / unintended words or phrases

  • Errors in content, such as facts or names that are incorrect.

  • Sentence level errors such as run-on sentences

  • Errors in spelling or punctuation

The goal of a copy edit is to make sure that your manuscript is correct and flows as smoothly as possible before it goes to the printer.