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Five Steps to a Better Book

05 Aug 2015 4:51 PM | Ruth Crocker

When Shunryu Suzuki said, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few," I was sure he was speaking about how we learn to create wonderful books, and it all boils down to editing. Of course, it's also important to start with a wonderful writer who has a great story, but, a terrific book is ultimately dependent on working with careful and thoughtful editors who can bring the work to its full potential.

1. Developmental editing is book bootcamp. Here we focus on structure, tone and theme. Is the voice consistent? Is something missing? If it's fiction, are the characters believable? These kinds of questions from editor to author will bring the story into big-picture format.

2.  Line editing focuses on making sure that every word is appropriate to the overall content. Does the book read smoothly? Are there lumps and bumps along the way? Here we have moved from story to style.

3. Copyediting digs a little deeper. This is the final step before the book is typeset. Grammar, spelling and word usage get a closer look. Are there errors in capitalization? Is style consistent with a reference like The Chicago Manual of Style.

4. We may have thought that it's impossible to find a mistake after the previous three steps, but, believe it or not, those tiny blunders are almost inescapable without proofreading. Are the correct page numbers in the table of contents? Are there spelling errors still lingering?!!! (don't forget about the tyranny of auto-correction).

5. Finally, let those fact checkers do their job. An incorrect date for a well-known event can be an embarrassing subject at a book signing. Are you sure about that date for the Apollo launch? And which rocket was that? Fact checking editors will know.

Books that have been carefully edited allow the reader to have a more enjoyable reading experience. You may even sell more copies! Join us at the IPNE annual conference for more ideas about creating great books.


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