Eleven Steps and Tips for Self-Editing
Before sending your work off to anyone – friend, agent, publisher, or as a submission for a journal or magazine you must edit.
Some places expect perfection in prose while others may accept that there will still be editing required. That can range from minor editing to rigorous editing.
In my experience as an indie author, self-editing is a required first step before sending your work to anyone.
DON’T SKIP IT! DON’T THINK READING IT THROUGH ONCE IS EDITING.
I learned my lesson with my first novel to not take for granted the editing process.
Take the time and even the expense to do the following when self-editing. This is before you send it to a professional editor.
- Use spell-check AND grammar check. For long manuscripts I have found it won’t catch everything the first time. I find that I’ll go through it and correct things and run it again. I have also found that the Google Docs version finds things my MS Word doesn’t. So run it through both.
- In prose especially, do a search for phrases you commonly use. Words I search for are JUST, SO, THEN. I also go back and edit dialogue so that I can minimize the use of SAID and especially ASKED, because I have a hard time saying that word when reading aloud. So figure out your overused words and search for those.
- Read through your entire book or manuscript line by line, sentence by sentence. Very slowly and out loud. (first time I do this on the computer)
- Make those edits and print it out and do the same thing – line by line, sentence by sentence. Read it slowly out loud. Things like missing punctuation, open quotations, missing words like a, to, the, will jump out at you much more in print form. Get yourself some red pens and go all English-teacher on your work.
- Reading it out loud lets you hear it in a different voice than the one who was typing it out.
- Make additional edits based on this reading.
- Find a helpful friend or beta-reader that can help you find anything egregious left in the manuscript. If you can find a few readers, this is even better. They can work simultaneously, providing feedback in a tool such as Google Docs. This way you can see their comments and choose what to do with that information. Don’t have them actually change anything so set it to comment only and not edit.
- Once you’ve gotten all those comments, read it again line by line, slowly and out loud. I suggest reprinting it.
- Have a fresh-eyed beta-reader read this draft and provide any final comments or suggestions and then integrate them as you see fit.
- I’m a bit cautious so I’ll read through all the areas that were changed once more and I guarantee you – you will find something else to change either because you find a small error, misspelled word in the context, or a better way to phrase something.
- Depending on the goal for your work, either secure a professional editor (it’ll cost you less and frustrate them less if you’re work has already gone through the process above) or submit it to wherever it is you’d like.
Most importantly #11 – Make sure you have a product that you will be proud to put your name on for years to come.