A Few Practical Self-Editing Tips
Editors love it when their authors do at least a little self-editing before submitting a manuscript to them. Self-editing saves time and money, helps make you a better writer, and shows book editors that you value your work—which, in turn, makes them value your work. Successful authors, whether self-published or traditional, do not skip this crucial step.
I won’t rehash the valuable tips that can be found in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, The Elements of Style, and On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. I encourage all of my clients to read, study, and practice from these resources. The following should be in addition to learning the material from those books.
In this order:
Let it rest.
Once you’ve completed the first draft, let your manuscript sit for a while. Clear your head and give it some space. Don’t wait too long or you risk losing momentum and motivation. Two weeks is usually sufficient. Return to your work with new eyes and a fresh perspective. You’ve been in writing mode up until now, so remember to bring your editing cap.
Read it aloud.
This is especially important for dialogue. Does it sound stilted? Do you stumble over the words? If you stumble reading it out loud, readers will stumble in their heads. Even better: record yourself and play it back, or run the manuscript through a text-to-voice program. Good writing has a nice beat when read aloud, even when played in robo-voice.
Print it out.
Funny, this: your eyes can spot errors on paper with greater accuracy than on the screen. Studies actually show that we have improved accuracy and better reading comprehension on paper versus the screen, perhaps due to ocular fatigue and quicker eye-movement patterns that result from screen reading (among other factors). It’s not just preference; it’s science.
I want to hear from you. 😊 What are some of your self-editing rituals or best practices?