October 25, 2018
Self Editing 101
by Wendy Dean
What does self editing entail?
Authors know the first rule of writing is editing. In a world where anyone can publish anything, making your manuscript stand out should be the priority. Self editing means the author has done everything to ensure the manuscript is as clean as possible before sending it to their editor. It’s a skill that takes time to perfect, but a necessary one nonetheless. Plus, there are benefits! Self editing can save money on professional editing. It narrows down the type of editing required for your manuscript and can decrease the amount of time the editor spends on the manuscript. Additionally, self editing improves your writing over time. Authors become more efficient and the result is a more engaging final product.
Here are a few areas to focus on:
- Repeated Words – As you read through your document, take note of words or phrases that are found multiple times. Make a running list then perform a word search and start replacing.
- Delete useless words such as: like, so, really, very. Why? These words fail to communicate enough information & end up weakening your writing. You can find more useless words to ditch at dianaurban.com.
- Remove extra pronouns – Fix excessive use of pronouns at the start of every sentence. The find and replace function in your document creator or the word search function in Adobe PDF is perfect for saving time on this task.
- Grammar – Unless you are a grammar guru, it’s best to keep the grammar on point before breaking any rules.
- Read aloud – Hearing your work out loud can be of tremendous help. Due to our tendency to become “word blind” to our own work, we start to read what should be on the page rather than what is actually written. Take time to do this yourself or use the read aloud function in your PDF reader.
- Check Tense – Is it consistent? Does it make sense? A good rule of thumb for new authors is to use the literary present unless you are discussing historical events or your character is in flashback mode.
- Find the correct voice – An active voice gives clear information while a passive voice can often make the sentence too complex to be clearly understood. That said, there are moments when a passive voice may be necessary as explained in Alice E.M. Underwood’s grammarly blog post.
- Show, Don’t Tell – Rather than telling the reader, “He felt cold”, show the reader by painting a more complete picture. Your character might need gloves and hat, turn his back to the wind, or have teeth that chatter. Check outThe Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Becca Puglisi and Angela Ackerman.
- Try free apps like www.hemingwayapp.com to check sentence difficulty and make changes as needed. Many times the issue is a run on sentence or too many conjunctions.
- Beta Reader – Find a trusted person who can read your manuscript and provide honest, constructive feedback. Usually this is someone not in the publishing industry.
- Have No Fear – Don’t be afraid to cut out a scene or entire section of your book if it’s not working. Redo it for your current novel or save it for a future one.
As a writer these skills will eventually become second nature to you. No matter what, always polish your work. Your editor will thank you!
Have more self editing suggestions? Comment below and share your tips and best practices.