Welcome to Part 7 of my series on how to write a book...you're almost done! While you can really start getting excited now to be so close to the end of the process and almost have that finished book in your hands, there are still a few steps left that you need to get through and there's still some hard work to do. But you've been doing hard work all along so that's not a big deal to you at this point, right?
For those of you that are new, here are the preceding six parts so that you can get caught up and informed before we move on to Part 7.
Part 7 brings us to the final section of the creative process, which is...
PART 7: Final Edits and Proof Approval
That's right, the final step in the process is to do your absolutely final edits on the manuscript and approve the final proof copies of your book. This will be the final time you'll be able to physically change anything about your book, inside or out, so even though it's the last step of the creative part of the process, it's not the last step in the overall process of finishing your book. Still, it's a very important step. It can also be a lot of fun!
Up to and including Part 6, you've gone through the entire endeavor of creating your book and deciding on your target market and which publishing strategy you're going to go with (ie self-published or traditional publisher). The final bit of creative work you now have remaining is to make your final edits. Similar to parts 4 and 5, you should do your final round of editing very slowly and methodically, and make sure that you take breaks along the way. If you do it all in one sitting, you're liable to fall into the same trap as before, meaning that you'll likely miss some things and these errors will slip through into the printed version and haunt you for the rest of your life. Trust me, I still cringe when I find errors in my first book and it's been five years since it was published! My suggestion is to make no more than two final readthroughs of your manuscript to make those final edits, and to break it up into sections with periods of rest in between each one in order to keep your eyes and your brain from getting too fatigued. It may not be a bad idea to have someone else with their fresh pair of eyes also make a final pass through the manuscript, similar to before, although it's up to you at this point whether to do that.
Once you're satisfied that you've caught every mistake with your final editing job, it's time to get your proof copies! As I mentioned in Part 6, since I've personally gone the self-publishing route with my two books, I'm speaking from my experience in self-publishing, and it is almost certainly different to what happens if you're working through a traditional publisher. In my case, after I submitted my final manuscript, I was sent a proof copy to review. Here, the important thing is to pay attention to the formatting of your book and to finally see what it looks like in print. I will say that one of the most thrilling moments of the process is seeing your book in print with your name on the cover; finally seeing all of your hard work pay off in book form and holding it in your own two hands is an indescribable feeling.
Pay attention as you go through your proof for any errors in the formatting. These could range from poor reproductions of photographs to off-centered text, missing page numbers, and any number of other things. Ironically, in going through the proof with a fine-toothed comb, you'll end up doing one final edit! This is fine as it should be the last time (I mean it!) to find any straggling errors in the text as well as in the formatting. With my self-publishing company, after I make all of my proof corrections, I resubmit the corrected manuscript and they send me another proof. This process repeats until I don't find any more mistakes. With my first book, I went through four or five proof copies before I was satisfied (and there were still errors in the finished product!). With my second book, things went smoother and I got the final version on the second proof. After going through the last proof copy one last time to make sure everything looked good, I gave my final approval, the book was finished, and it was now ready to sell!
Unlike previous parts in this series, there's not too much advice or instruction I can offer in Part 7 apart from:
1. Be slow, careful, and methodical;
2. Strive for perfection but realize it's not achievable...and that's okay;
3. Don't get so excited to be close to the finish line that you get sloppy and rush through the job;
4. Keep your eye on the prize and finish this step of the process strongly.
Remember, you've worked slowly, steadily, and carefully throughout the entire book writing process; doing it one last time to ensure your finished product is the best it can be may be killing you inside because you're so excited to be nearly finished, but you've done this much...a little more is not a big deal. Trust me, you'll be glad you took the time and effort to do a quality job with this step.
But don't get too comfortable and satisfied just yet! There's more work remaining, and it is one of the most important parts of the entire experience. Finish Part 7 off strong and then join me later for Part 8 where we discuss one of, if not the most important part of how to write a book, and it has nothing to do with anything you've done in the previous seven parts!