Self-Editing Tips

self-editing for writers

The writer heaves a satisfied sigh as she finishes typing out the last sentence of her book. It’s done. It’s finally done. An enormous sense of accomplishment washes over her. She posts to Facebook and texts her friends.

And then she realizes she still has to edit it. She is just starting out, or hasn’t for whatever reason enough to afford the services of a line editor. She also doesn’t want to wait the time it would take for her to find a line editor she can afford, but also trust. Our writer has decided as so many self-published authors do to edit it herself.

I recommend “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print” by Rennie Browne and Dave King. You can find it on Amazon here.

The bare bones basics of self-editing include:

  1. Read it out loud. How does it sound? Does the dialogue flow naturally? Does it sound like something a person might say? Use two different colored highlighters. Use one for what you especially love, and one for what you want to change.
  2. Where possible, avoid internal character dialogue that is merely a way of explaining something to the reader.
  3. Avoid using “very” as a descriptive word. If it was very great, it was fantastic.
  4. Lengthy narration or description can be tedious to a reader. Break them into smaller paragraphs or insert dialogue where it would merit it.
  5. Avoid changing point of view during a scene. Point of view changes should occur between scenes and the scenes separated by a space to clue the reader in.
  6. Work efficiently, don’t do things twice. If I learned Tom’s mother was cruel to him in the last chapter, I don’t continually need to be told that throughout the tale.
  7. Don’t tell the reader things when you can show the reader things.
  8. Don’t feel you need to tell your reader every detail about a character when they first appear in the story. Give a few basic details, and reveal a few more here and there as you tell the story.
  9. Try not to use italics too often, fancy imagery where it is not needed, or excessive and inappropriate exclamation marks.
  10. Work to condense anything not needed to advance the story or enhance the understanding of the characters and setting.

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