Two Pens on Notebook

Self-Editing Tips

You may be wondering why you should self-edit when you're planning on hiring an editor. When you learn and are able to utilize self-editing techniques, you become a better writer. It shows that you care about your work and are committed to your manuscript. Don't you want it to be in the best shape possible before handing it off to someone else?


By taking the time to edit your own work, you get to know your story and your characters better, which in turn can help you spot issues and areas you can strengthen. Finally, it can save you money once your manuscript is in the editor's hands. With those advantages in mind, here are some tips to help guide you when you are ready to dive in and start self-editing.

1 - Set your manuscript aside. Take a few days, a couple of weeks, or even a month or more. This way your story feels fresh when you return to it. You will immediately pick up on things you would have missed before after being so immersed in your manuscript.

2 - Self-edit in stages. In your first pass, look for big picture (macro-level) issues—plot holes, character development issues, pacing problems, etc. During your next pass, focus on micro-level issues such as grammar, syntax, and word choice.

3 - Read your work in different ways. Reading it aloud, have your computer program read it to you, or read it backward. You will be amazed at what you notice. The last suggestion might sound strange, but it helps you avoid getting sucked into your story and missing things.

4 - Keep an eye out for head-hopping. This is when you switch to a different point-of-view in a scene. If a full chapter is being told from your heroine's POV, don't suddenly start sharing what is in your hero's head.

- Know when to show and when to tell.

- Cut down on the adverbs. Opt for strong, verbs in the place of adverbs. Did she close the door angrily or did she slam it? Did he run quickly or did he sprint?

- Look for passive voice. While you certainly don't need to remove every single instance of passive voice in your manuscript, aim to write most sentences in the active voice. In passive voice, the subject is being acted upon instead of doing the action. For example, "The kids were given ice cream" is in the passive voice. "He gave the kids ice cream" is in the active voice. Writing in active voice feels more powerful and personal.

- Eliminate wandering body parts.

- Remove or replace your crutch words.

- Incorporate all of the senses.

- Avoid cliches and redundancies.

- Get rid of unnecessary filter and filler words.

- Stick to said and asked.

- Get rid of the purple prose. You don't want your reader to be married to a dictionary.

- Run spell check.