Final editing: indie author style

Someone recently asked me if there are major differences in the final editing process when you’re indie published versus traditionally published. The answer is YES.

There’s so much to do this time of year that it can be a challenge to stay focused on this final editing stage of my book, The Recollection of Trees. The weather this week is supposed to be unusually sunny, perfect for putting out all my Halloween decorations. (I know it’s early, but if I wait until the calendar reads October, it could be freezing, windy, rainy, or sweltering here in Michigan.) The kids and I will be joining their online classmates this week at the local cider mill, which is an annual tradition. It is simply not fall until you’ve carefully selected your perfect carving pumpkin out of a field, and filled your tummy with crisp apple cider and a fresh, warm cinnamon donut. But I digress…


I’ve heard from traditionally published authors such as Anne Rice that the editing process takes an average of six to ten months or longer, with many rounds of back and forth between the author and several different people who check the work for consistency, continuity, typos, grammar, punctuation, accuracy, and much more.

My revision and editing will take as long as I decide it will take, but probably about the same amount of time.

Final editing might be one of the most difficult parts about being an indie author. I don’t have a team of people to go over my work with a fine toothed comb, but the truth is if I hope to sell any books, I need to hire an editing/proofreading service. I need to be able to count on their professionalism, integrity, and expertise for my specific genre—I don’t exactly want someone who usually edits textbooks for my project and I probably don’t want the woman who just left a New York agency to start her own company but hasn’t actually done any editing of young adult fantasy yet, even if she’s super enthusiastic. Finding the right editor has been…interesting.

I researched several editing services, only to discover they charge a range of $10-$20 per page. In my case, that would work out to $3000-$6000! I finally found an affordable freelance editor I really trust, who I plan to send my finished revision to within the next week or so. She is a retired professional who has decades of experience and I am thrilled to have her. In addition, I have two teachers who will act as proofreaders, and a handful of brutally honest teens to serve as my test audience.

teen shoes

Perhaps the most difficult part of the indie revision process is the sheer self-discipline and mental marathon of it all.

The closest I can come to a typical day goes something like this:

7:00-9:00 am:  Morning routine of pets, kids, and self, including breakfast and the all-important first cup or two of coffee. Get kids ready for online school day. If I am smart, I proactively pile a bunch of food into the slow cooker so I don’t have to deal with dinner later.

9:00 am-3:00 pm: I don’t want to explain, defend, or focus on my kids’ education except to say I am required to oversee their school day, which means I can’t write until they’re finished for the day. I save time by sneaking peeks at social media and emails on my phone during the school day, so I am less tempted to do it during my limited writing time. I sometimes get a little cleaning done when they are working independently. Sometimes.

3:00-3:30 pm: Not having to pick up my youngest son after school this year means I can get started writing right away, in theory. However, if we’ve had a challenging day with algebraic equations, creative writing juices may be a bit difficult to summon immediately. Walk the dog to clear my head.

3:30 pm: Leave my phone in a completely different room so I won’t be distracted when almost everyone I know starts texting, posting, commenting, and tweeting about the end of their work day, their kids’ days, the rude client or oblivious grocery store clerk, or some other life altering detail. (Andy Warhol called it, didn’t he?) Sit down to write/revise/edit. Play a couple of rounds of spider solitaire. I’m not stalling, just switching gears and letting one of the cats settle into my lap.

3:45 pm: Get mad at myself for wasting fifteen minutes on spider solitaire. Open editing notes and scroll to last entry to refresh my memory of what I intended to do next. Overhear kids discussing video game in next room. Ignore. Open current section to start editing. Hear kids riling up the dog and escalating debate over video game. Close door somewhat loudly, to send the message that they need to knock it off.

4:10 pm: Experience semi-meltdown that the entire manuscript is crap and no one will want to read it. Breathe. Realize I need to completely rewrite three entire chapters because they no longer make sense after I’ve edited a character out and added a twist that changes the timing or setting or both. Breathe again. Log in editing notes that I need to make the changes. Decide not to make them while I’m conflicted about it. (It’s a good thing I’m not writing on a typewriter, because goddess knows I would’ve burned at least three versions of my manuscript by now.) Imagine throwing the typewriter onto the front lawn in a fit of insanity.

4:19 pm: Go back to read the beginning, then get lost in the story and find myself crying or laughing. Remember why I wanted to write the story in the first place. New idea floods in. Open a new word doc to get the words on paper.

4:44 pm: Vague background noise of laughter and muffled dog barking. Ignore, save my work, and then keep writing.

5:11 pm: Hunger rumbles my stomach and background noises seem louder, even with door closed. Stop mid-thought so I know where I need to go next. Click back over to editing notes and record what I’ve done. Save all files onto my USB necklace (yes, I wear my book.) and close out of everything. Stand up. Realize one leg is asleep and bladder is really full. Limp to bathroom. Reenter family life to discover a sticky dripped something on kitchen counter, and hungry kids and pets.  Restart the clothes dryer I loaded two hours ago.

6:40 pm: With dinner done, walk dog again, clean up kitchen, supervise trash being taken out, and watch a bit of TV while folding half-wrinkled clothes.  This inevitably disintegrates into the bedtime routine. Bonus: find $5 “housekeeping tip” in someone’s jeans’ pocket.

10:10 pm: Check social media or play Papa’s Taco Mia. Don’t judge. I’m willing to bet many a great American novel has fallen victim to the secret delight of getting a big tip from a closer after a string of a dozen complicated taco orders. Realize that with both kids attending online school at home there is no longer a need for evening lunch packing and frenzied backpack organizing. This might be my second wind. Actually write for another hour or two. Must resist virtual taco shop to achieve this.

Midnight or 1:00 am: Spend ten minutes chatting with husband when he comes in from work. Crawl into bed, reassuring myself that I did squeeze in a bit of writing/editing time and the house isn’t a complete disaster. Read one to three pages of someone else’s book until I can’t keep my eyes open. (Yes, sadly it’s usually pages, not chapters.)

3:00 or 4:00 am: Wake up to cat doing laps around my head. Think of something amazing for my book. Write the ideas on a bedside notebook and try to go back to sleep. Occasionally, the voices in my head are too noisy and I have to get up to let them out onto the page. This is usually the best stuff I’ve written. I suspect it’s because I am not really doing the writing, I’m transcribing. Or maybe delusional. Time will tell, right?

Of course, most days are not typical. Today for example, included an urgent trip to the vet with our coonhound, Pancake. Nothing like one of your fur babies peeing blood to send the whole house into a tizzy! She’s ok, but it was a scary moment in the day that ended up a bit expensive  in time, energy, and money.

So, is the revision/editing process different for an indie author? I imagine that even the best, most successful authors who write at home probably experience similar days to mine. At this rate, I have no idea if I will meet my self-imposed deadline of releasing my book in November, but so far I’m on track to do so.

The best (and worst) part: it’s up to me to make it happen.

On rare days, that is an utterly terrifying thought, but most of the time it’s pretty liberating.

P.S. This is what I’m reading right now. My new friend Jessica Spotswood is a lovely person and a gifted YA author. Her Cahill Witch Chronicles trilogy is filled with witchcraft, suspense, and delightful moments of swooning. 🙂

sisters fate cover