Editing With The Kindle

Editing is one of those processes that can go on forever, and I must admit to being a little addicted to it lately!

editing on the kindle

Screenshot of editing on the Kindle

I have been working through a number of edits from my agent on Pentecost, my first novel in the ARKANE series.

Yes, this book is out and published (and available on all ebook stores!) but it is also being pitched to New York publishers by my literary agent in Sept/Oct. It’s a book I know well and have read several times so editing it again is difficult.

It has already had a number of edits:

* Pre-publication – multiple drafts, self-editing, editorial review, and then a full line edit and then a proof-read, plus beta readers. More articles here about all that editing.

* Post-publication – fixing up of some minor errors/typos found by the first readers

So I am absolutely happy with the book as it stands now.

BUT when I re-read it again, as I work on the 3rd novel in the series, there are things that I want to improve.

Danger zone: every time you read a book you will find things you want to change!

There were some changes I wanted to make, plus some edits from Rachel, my agent so I have spent a few weeks going back through the book and tweaking. Here’s my process:

editing ARKANE

Editing on paper

(1) I printed it out on paper and went through it with a pen, writing on the pages and then updating the master file in Scrivener.

(2) I went through it again directly on Scrivener with the changes that Rachel, my agent wanted.

(3) Then I was sick of the book but I wanted to re-read it once more to make sure I was entirely happy. So this time, I exported it to Kindle format and read it on the Kindle device itself, adding annotations with the Kindle commenting functionality (see above left picture). It was amazing to see what popped off the page when reading in this different format. For example, repeated words were more easily spotted. Check the above example, where the word ‘tried’ appears twice near the number 35. In the edit, I changed one of these words to attempted. I have also changed some of the sentence structures to vary the rhythm.

(4) Then finally I went through making those changes in the Scrivener master file and exported it for submission.

Of course, if the book/series is bought by a publisher, I will have more edits based on what they want, so it is truly an ongoing process.

What do you think about editing books that are already published?

How do you edit your books, especially when you know them inside out and need new eyes? Please do leave a comment below as this is such an important topic for authors.

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  1. says

    This is a great post, and as it happens, I’m using exactly this technique right now. I’ve done all I can–at least at this moment–on paper, so I use Scrivener to quickly format for the Kindle, and then read it again in this different format.

    This makes a lot of sense for two reasons—first, you simply see different things in each format, which honestly seems a bit odd to me, but it’s absolutely true.

    And second, the book is going to ultimately be an ebook, so it’s vital to check it in that format.

    In my opinion, Scrivener is God’s gift to writers. For less than $45 you can have an astoundingly useful program, crafted BY writers FOR writers. You really can’t appreciate how much difference this program makes till you use it, but it is transformative. (And how often do you see software universally praised with 5-star reviews? You won’t see that for Word, I assure you!)

    If nothing else, Scrivener makes the once-tedious task of ebook formatting a snap. In literally less than a minute it will ‘compile’ your mss into a mobi (or epub if you like) file that you can either drag or email to your Kindle. This is an absolute revolution, and it means that you can PAINLESSLY check all kinds of things, including formatting ideas, in just an instant.

    I use the Kindle Fire, and find it easy to make notes. The Kindle is so easy to carry that I just take it to the coffeeshop, read a couple of chapters and note what needs editing. And, as Joanna says, it is sort of astonishing what you see in THIS format that you miss on paper. (Actually, it’s a little depressing to see all the things you’ve missed . . . but that’s the editing saga, isn’t it?)

    If you don’t have Scrivener, it’s worth it just for this easy formatting. But it’s worth if for so many more reasons, too. I know this post isn’t really about Scrivener, but it is such a useful tool that I have become an evangelist.

    Great and useful post. Thanks!

  2. says

    Editing makes me crazy. I usually get to the point where I can not read my book anymore. I have to just step back from it and work on other things and then I can usually go back to it and it isn’t so bad. I always want to change things up too but I just have to stop and let it go or it will never be finished. It has to be good enough at some point.

  3. says

    Editing drives me crazy, but it is a must! The way I motivate myself to do this repeatedly and also after the editor has worked on the book, is to repeat my mantra.
    ‘Striving towards excellence, and going beyond excellence’. It involves more than just the physical part of doing; it involves getting motivated when our emotions are making us feel,’ I’ve had enough of this book, I am over it’. I definitely agree Joanna, there comes a time when I am happy with what I have written, then when it is published, I think, I really need to add or redo that part again. Although this can be frustrating, in a way, it is great; we continue to want to improve our work and move beyond excellence. Delece

  4. says

    When preparing to publish my third in a series I went back and updated/lightly edited the first two published novels, mostly cleaning up the front/back matter (marketing reasons) and some Ugh! words/passages I found. I’ve also revised cover artwork a few times. Great that withing 12-48 hours the products are available. I do update, within the back matter file, the source file name and revision (I use a simple format as I write: “FantasticStory_120922″ for 2012, september, 22nd and maybe a letter designation like b,c,d after if I have several updates on the same day).

    Traditional publishing has released books many times, mostly trying different covers, but I think some subtle interior changes. Do an image search on Google for a classic book and see just how many variations they tried over the years (I’m reading Raymond Chandler The Long Goodbye today and it’s surprising the number of covers used, I stopped counting at a dozen).

    I like the idea of kindle editing. My next three books, a separate trilogy from the others above, is in final edit and I planned to load into Kindle but was thinking how I could flag the changes (previously thinking pen/paper or the computer open to find/replace as I read). I’ll now test out the annotation option. Thanks.

    • says

      I definitely agree with the light editing option – I feel that’s what I have been doing for the already published books. New covers can definitely give the books a new lease of life as well, and I recommend that for authors if they haven’t used a pro cover designer on first try.

  5. Mike says

    I usually edit by doing something else. Right now editing two first drafts- process was to print out single side double space, cover with copious notes, then update in Scrivener. Still on the last bit, as I found some big structural changes were needed.
    Interesting to read of next steps – may try the kindle or iBooks route next.

  6. Susan says

    I know I’m a little late to this post as we are moving into mid October, but wanted to share with you a website that can help, especially with repeated words – Autocrit. You upload a section of your MS and it will go through and highlight the repeated words, phrases etc. Upon completion it will tally up the different words and then tell you how many of those words you should get rid of. It also does a couple of other neat things, but I mainly use it for the repeated words as I don’t realize when I’m typing how many of the same words I do use.

  7. says

    I believe Dougs comments have merit.
    How correct is correct? What appears to be correct to your average indie reader will not be good enough for you, as the author, and certainly not good enough for an editor. Which of the three are we writing for as a self published author?
    It is a given that the standard of writing and reading has dropped dramatically for the web generation. I cringe when I read e-mails or letters written by people under thirty, but when I point this out to them they shrug it off. It doesn’t seem to bother them that much, so perhaps we shouldn’t let it drive us to editing distraction. I am not advocating that we allow typo’s and poor sentence structure to pass, but I do not think that agonizing over the positioning of a comma or an apostrophe is going to make any difference to the reading experience of 90% of those who read our books. Let’s spend more time improving our voice and our story-telling ability – that’s what people read fiction for!
    The times, they are a-changing. Perhaps we should not be subjecting ourselves to the standards of yesteryear. I expect an online crucifixion for this post, but it will be worth it if it generates some good debate. John.

    • says

      Hi John, the type of editing I am talking about is self-editing – the type you do BEFORE you send to a pro editor. I do as much editing as I can on my own and then I get pro edits, then I get beta readers … so don’t worry, I am not advocating only self-editing.

  8. says

    Joanna and fellow readers,
    I have two questions regarding editing:
    1) Has anyone ever used the http://www.masteredit.net self editing software? I am thinking of buying it and would appreciate some feedback.
    2) I have spent hours going through Scrivener tutorials and it seems to be nothing more than a glorified filing system. As far as converting to other formats is concerned, Calibre is free and specialises in this. I cannot see why setting up a good system of files and folders in Word 2010 would be that much worse than using Scrivener. Am I missing something? I would hate to miss out if I am.

    • Paul A. Jensen says

      I have also checked out Scrivener and would agree with you John but then I have developed my own way of working that I am happy with. I am convinced that starting with a proper plan to follow from the beginning is very important (but then I am an engineer and we like to have things in order from the start!).

      So far I have a biography (of my father and mother) published with POD and am working on my autobiography and I don’t feel that I need Scrivener.

  9. Susan says


    I haven’t, but in reading through what Masteredit does do, it is very similar to Autocrit, although Autocrit requires an annual fee. I still don’t rely totally on Autocrit, but it certainly helps me out tremendously with repeated words, phrases, the Witch Hunter as Masteredit explains and will even generate a report for you. However, having said all that, if Masteredit really does what it says, it seems to be worth the $29.95. I would be interested if anyone else has any feedback on it.


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