Joyous as it may be to type “THE END” after your final chapter, it can feel as if the real work is only just about to begin: the onerous task of self-editing. This list of top tips from former teacher Hayley Milliman, now marketing associate at ProWritingAid, tell you how to reduce your time spent editing your book manuscript while making a better job of it, making the prospect of self-editing much less daunting.
Writing is easy. All you have to do is cross out the wrong words. — Mark Twain
Writing efficiently can be a challenge when you are meeting a deadline. Follow these steps and achieve written success!
#1: Finish Your Work First
Editing is infinitely easier once you have words to work with. So write some words. Finish your copy before you go back and start tearing it apart. When you are working with a completed piece, you’ll be able to get a better sense of the whole picture and see which ideas connect and which don’t. You’ll also be able to track your grammar, spelling, and syntax errors better when you consider the completed product, rather than one that’s only half done.
#2: Take a Break
You have words on the page. They may not be polished, they may not be printable, but they’re on the page. What next? Put down your pen. Close your laptop. Pull the ribbon from your typewriter and walk away. There is no better editing tool than a fresh set of eyes. Even if you take a five-minute break to meditate or eat a banana, your writing will greatly improve when you return to it, having had a moment to breathe.
#3: Become a Reader
Read your words aloud. Don’t mumble them. Don’t skim them. Read them. Out loud. If you have a willing participant, have them listen. Brace yourself for criticism, and ask your listener if your words make sense. If no one is available to listen, or you’re just too shy, stand in front of a mirror and read your words slowly and clearly. Reading aloud helps you catch awkward sentence constructions and missed words much more easily.
#4: Find the Adjectives and Adverbs
Want to feel like a real editor? Go through your piece and take out all of the words that you deem unnecessary. Start with adjectives and adverbs. For adjectives, consider whether you’re saying the same thing twice (e.g. “She had dark, black hair.”) For adverbs, consider whether they’re needed at all.
#5: Scan For Repeats
Scan for any sentences that repeat an idea that was already written. Remove that sentence. Look for sentences that contain two of the same word or words with the same root, and remove those, too.
#6: Switch It Up
Change something about the formatting of the piece. Something as simple as altering the size of the font or the spacing of your paragraphs can help you see your work in a new light. Remember, it’s all about “fresh eyes” and tricking your brain into thinking it’s never seen this piece of writing before so that you can identify and eradicate the errors.
#7: Use an Online Self-Editing Tool
Online editors are designed to do what your brain simply can’t: analyze and find all the mistakes in your piece in a matter of seconds. Even better, a tool like ProWritingAid acts as both grammar checker and writing coach, identifying hundreds of different types of errors in your manuscript. You’ll save hours and hours by knowing exactly where to go within your piece to fix your work.
Enough already! Leave the piece alone. An over-edited piece is almost as bad as a piece that has not been edited at all.
Remember, Self-Editing Is Where The Sausage Gets Made!
Editing can, and should, be a joyous part of your writing process. After all, books are really written during the editing stage – that’s when you’ll be able to look at the work you’ve created and sharpen it into something fantastic.
Embrace the edit and use these tips to work smarter.
OVER TO YOU Feel free to add your favourite self-editing tips to Hayley’s excellent list!