This post was really popular last year, so I decided to revamp it and create a series of editing posts.
I love writing. It is so liberating to allow the words to flow out however they may come. But, this means they need to be tidied up later. And, I’m not a fan of editing. Without further ado, here are my tips to make self editing easier.
Take a break from your project
Don’t start editing as soon as it is written. When your writing is still fresh, you will be too close to the text that and will miss mistakes as you know what it is meant to say.
By distancing yourself, you’ll read it with a fresh perspective.
Set Goals & Create Trackers
After giving your novel space, this is the next thing you should do. Setting yourself a target is what will keep you going through your edit. Break the task up into manageable chunks and it will seem less daunting.
I will soon share a post about how I use a spreadsheet for this but for now, here is an example of my paper tracker. Seeing your progress is extremely rewarding and motivating.
I always copy & paste to a new document so I don’t edit the original. This helps protects your work if you realise you cut something you shouldn’t have or find the new version isn’t working.
Change the format
There are several ways to do this and it will result in you seeing the novel from a different perspective.
Print it: I currently don’t have a printer at the moment so can’t take advantage of this one but having a hard copy will enable you to read it in a. You have the added bonus of being able to write notes on your document.
Change the font: Different fonts have different vibes and some fonts will make identifying mistakes clearer. On this note, you may find certain fonts help to be more creative when writing. I would recommend cursive or italic for creativity and sans or serif fonts for serious editing.
Audio: If you have software that reads your text aloud, this can help you hear mistakes. You can also try reading it aloud and see if you stumble over and of the text or parts that don’t flow right.
Today there are no excuses for misspelt words. Every modern word processor program comes with a basic spell checker built in. However, it won’t pick up the misuse of words if spelt or used correctly which leads me on nicely to my next point.
This is so important. A spellcheck is following rules of the English language but when you read it you may find you’ve used the wrong word or the sentence in not saying what you intended. For example, ‘do’ and ‘don’t’ are spelt correct but mean the opposite. Whilst proof reading you will also identify ways to strengthen weak text. I also will highlight text I need to return to look at again.
This is a browser app. On the website I copy and paste the chapter I’m working on into the app. I tend to proofread in this app as it highlights weak words like those ending in ‘ly’ and passive words. It also highlights complex sentences which you may want to simplify for your readers.
It grades your writing. You don’t necessarily want a high grade. If your novel is graded high then it might feel like a chore for your readers. It actually is more enjoyable if it is a lower grade.
Hemingway will slap you in the face with your over use of ‘just’, ‘that’ and other unnecessary filler words.
Next, I paste my chapter into Grammarly. This focuses on different qualities in your writing and always makes further suggestions. It often picks up on my over or under use of commas.
It is an advanced spell check but it is following a set of rules and sometimes writers like to break these rules. For example, it might identify a character is not speaking in a grammatically correct way but maybe I want them to speak like that. This is why you must always review the suggestions.
I prefer the browser version to the mobile app.
Find & Replace
Use F&R to replace name changes or look for repetitive words. You can also use it to check for mistakes with spacing.
I used it to check my formatting for speech so I get it to find ” in my manuscript. I’ve also used it to change a name throughout my MS.
I used Save the Cat during my edit to check the pacing of my story.
Based on the original length of the novel, I calculate where in the story different beats should happen. For example, by doing this I was able to identify that my start was too slow so I looked at what was unnecessary to cut.
You’ve spent a lot of time working on your novel so ensure you back it up. There is nothing more upsetting than discovering you lost it.
Easy methods to back up is to save to more than one location: Pc/laptop, USB, Google drive, email yourself.
Once you think it is perfect, it’s time to get a second opinion. Here are a few options to consider:
- Editor: Do your research to find one that you would like to work with. There are also different editors for different stages of your book.
- Mentor: Work with an experienced author to learn from them.
- Critique Group: Join a group of writers to exchange novels and give each other feedback.
- Share Online: Post on sites like Wattpad to see how your novel is received.
- Beta Readers: Find a group of readers and gather there feedback on your novel (can ask them to complete questionnaires).
Some feedback will be based on personal opinion. Writing is an art after all and you can chose to ignore their suggestions especially if it is pulling you away from your original vision and voice. But if several people are raising issue with the same part, it is likely that they have a valid point. They have taken their time to read your novel and help you, so respect their input and consider their feedback.
Do you use any of the above methods? Have you any tips to add that I missed?
I’ve have recently received my novel back from a developmental edit. The feedback has been unbelievably useful and my novel I once thought was close to ready is now requiring a lot of work.
The editor wasn’t harsh. In fact her feedback is what I have been craving for year. It is like having a best friend who understands what you are trying to achieve and has the skills to help. She has been honest with me about what is and isn’t working and even even shared resources to help me.
Have you ever used a professional editor?
If you like this, you will enjoy:
Do you keep notebooks of story ideas?
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