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.

Over the years, I’ve found ways to make editing easier. Today, I will share my methods to help you and other writers.

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.

Versions

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.

Basic Spellcheck

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.

Proofread

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.

Hemingway App

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.

Grammarly

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.

Structural edit

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.

Back up

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.

Feedback

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.
  • 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).

Remember some feedback will be based on their personal opinion and you can chose to ignore their suggestions especially if it is pulling you away from your original vision and voice. However, if they are likely to have a good point and are trying to help you to see areas where you can improve.

Do you use any of the above methods? Have you any tips to add that I missed?

I’ve just finished a full novel edit and it feels good to see the new improved final version. My novel has been edited so many times I have lost count. Each time I thought I got it but then I have discovered new ways to improve it. With each edit, I believe I have developed as a writer. I am aware that although I think this is it, I may find reason to edit again.

If you like this, you will enjoy:

Comma ‘gain!

Tips on naming your character

Discover Your Story Plotting Style

Do you keep notebooks of story ideas?

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Ally plus text

14 thoughts on “How I edited my novel – 12 tips for self editing

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