I always excelled at spelling in school and was so-so with grammar. From 2002-2004 I taught Medical Transcription and I had to mark the student’s transcriptions. I learned a lot from doing that repeatedly for two years and that sticks with me today. I can’t even read newspaper and magazine articles without picking out the bad stuff! For me, editing comes easily but it’s not the same for everyone.
For starters, you do need to have exceptional spelling and grammar skills so you know where to put those commas and you’re not wasting time looking up the correct spelling for every other word.
It has been suggested that you put your finished manuscript away for a while–a couple of weeks at least if not months. This allows you to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes once you do sit down to edit it.
My first time through I will edit spelling (when typing my eye, and Word, do not pick up everything) and grammar mistakes where I find them but I mostly edit the story. This involves reading for characters, plot and action. If it keeps you reading and you really like it then make sure you compliment yourself! If it starts to lag in areas, then mark that too.
Don’t slow down action to describe something and be certain that when you do find a section you don’t like that it can’t be changed before you cut it… perhaps all it needs is some dialogue.
You must have courage to make cuts that are essential to the editing process.
Once you have got that next copy of your manuscript go through for spelling and grammar. If you have troubles reading it through from the beginning because you get lost in the story then try reading it sentence by sentence from the end. This will make you focus on sentence structure and spelling.
Remember to not rely on wordprocessing software–as long as some words are spelled correctly, it cannot decipher which word you were intending to use: they’re there and their is a perfect example of this.
Editing is a daunting task not to be taken lightly. So take a few deep breaths and set yourself a goal–a chapter, a page (might be all you can tolerate the first few times), a half hour–stick to that goal.
You’ll make it to the end!