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Tips for Self-Editing Your Work

Finishing a draft of your novel is an empowering feeling that should fill you with pride and excitement! Now that you’re ready to review your work, you’ll need to switch your mindset from that of a writer and prepare to embark on the self-editing journey.

up close image of hands self-editing work

Self-editing is a necessary part of the writing process. Although it may seem difficult at times, you hone your editing skills the same way you improve your writing craft — through learning and practice.

When you’re ready to dive into your draft and polish your piece, we’re here to help you through the editing process. This list of tips and tricks for self-editing will assist you with everything from plot to punctuation as you move from page to page.

Format It

Organization can help you in every part of your life as an author. Although some authors do not use outlines, synopsis or other types of structured planning, they do commit to various organization practices that corral all of their ideas, characters, and plots into an easy-to-reference format.

Staying organized is a great habit to follow, one that will not only help you in self-editing but also help you throughout the writing process. Whichever way works best for you is ultimately the method you should use; here are a few ideas to try as well:

  • Include page numbers from the start
  • Segment your work out by chapters based on plot or point of view
  • Utilize plot diagrams and act outlines
  • Use character arc outlines when building out or editing your main characters

Keep in mind that you can apply this to writing and editing. You can create a spreadsheet or list that you can modify and reference as you move through the editing process, noting changes as you make them.

Read Your Work Out Loud

Although your reader will likely read silently, your words will become a voice in their mind. To ensure that your pace and syntax “sound” clear, read your work aloud to yourself or to someone else. Doing this will identify sentences that are too complex, too short, or too wordy for their own good.

Remember, these words are your thoughts on paper. It’s easy to gloss over some sentences because you “think” you know what it says. This is where simple mistakes like misspellings, forgotten words, and other little errors slip through the cracks. Reading each word out loud forces you to see the words themselves apart from the story they tell. (A bonus technique is finding someone willing to listen as you read aloud)

Utilize Available Tools & Resources

The internet is booming with fantastic tools for writers and editors. Some of these tools are free to the public while others require a purchase or subscription. Which is better? Whichever tools work best for you. A new writer may benefit from a paid service while an experienced writer may only need a free service to help them stay on task.

The opposite also applies: a new writer may choose to try out a few different free tools to help them in many areas while an experienced writer may choose to subscribe to a paid service that they’ve found works best with their writing style.

The best advice is to try as many free services as you can or even sign up for free trial periods of paid services. Many of them may work for you, some of them may not. By approaching all of them with an open mind, you’ll objectively be able to determine which service helps you the most in your editing process. A few great services include:

  • Hemingway App – a free online editing tool
  • Grammarly – an online grammar checking, spell checking, and plagiarism detection platform (with a free version)
  • ProWritingAid – an online writing editor and personal writing coach (free Chrome extension available)
  • Todoist – a free to-do list app and task manager
  • Cliché Finder – a free site designed to find and highlight clichés in your writing
woman drinking out of mug while typing on computer

Review Specific Areas One at a Time

Trust us — it’s easy to get wrapped up in the entirety of your work and just as tempting to try to knock the entire editing process out in one fell swoop. However, trying to edit everything at once is not recommended. Every element of your manuscript deserves your undivided attention. 

Proper organization, once again, will keep you focused. Make a list of specific aspects of your work to focus on one at a time while editing, including:

  • Dialogue
  • Character Structure
  • Plot Structure
  • Head-Hopping
  • Fact-Checking
  • Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation/Syntax

Keep an Eye Out for Clichés

Some say that clichés are so popular because they speak the truth; others say that clichés are so, well, cliché. While including platitudes and commonplace phrases in your work isn’t wrong, too many of them may distract the reader. Your manuscript symbolizes your unique ideas and creativity. Stuffing it with overused phrases can dilute your work. If you notice too many clichés throughout your draft, replace them with a thoughtful phrase of your own.

Lean on the BookBoro Community for Help

Always remember — you’re never alone as an author. BookBoro is a welcoming community of writers and readers who come together for their love of books. Writers share their works-in-progress with readers who get the exciting opportunity to review and critique amazing new stories from up-and-coming authors.

Whether you’re on the initial edit of your first draft or if you believe your final draft is ready for all the world to see, let the BookBoro community help you produce the best work possible. Self-editing is an important part of the process, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have help along the way. Connect with readers on the BookBoro platform so you obtain the free feedback you need.

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