Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Self Editing

Before you present your manuscript to a critique group or submit it to agents you should do a little self-editing. Here are some tips:

1)      Edit as you go. I personally review the entire manuscript every time I finish writing 50 pages. This keeps the plot fresh in my mind, as well as how characters act in earlier chapters.
2)      Give yourself a little distance. If you follow suggestion number 1, by the time you write the final word, you’ll know your story inside and out. Now forget everything you know. After you finish writing your manuscript, put it aside for a month or two. Write something else. Read a couple of books, then come back to it. You’ll be able to better judge what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be able to view more as an “outsider” would.
3)      Read a hard copy. For some reason, I find typos on paper that have hidden from me on the computer screen.
4)      Watch repetition, in word choice and sentence structure. A thesaurus is a wonderful thing. Also keep in mind how your sentences flow. I noticed I had a whole paragraph where I started each sentence with a pronoun. In my rewrite, I paid special care to fixing sentence monotony.
5)      Take care to make sure your characters develop gradually. Character growth is important in a story, but it has to apparent as the story progresses. You don’t want a character to react suddenly to a situation, completely out of, well, character.
6)      Check your plot and pacing. Do your plot points make sense? Does the story flow? Are there bits that don’t need to be there? Don’t be afraid to cut parts out.
7)      Read dialogue aloud. This may seem wacky, but it works. Is the dialogue believable? Does it flow? Is it true to your characters?

Hope these tips are helpful. Feel free to share your own. Next: Components of a good critique group.


  1. Awesome tips. I definitely agree about reading a hard copy!

  2. Wonderful tips to self-editing! The read dialogue aloud is a very good one. I have a friend who put her manuscript on her Kindle and listened to the entire thing. She said it was really helpful to hear it being read aloud. I haven't tried it myself yet, but I think it's a pretty good idea to hear how the story flows.

  3. Very helpful. I especially like the one about gradual character growth. That's what I'm focusing on right now in my re-writes.

  4. Good advice. I've certainly found when printing out a passage for a writing group that I've found an error or an oversight.

  5. Read the story backwards!

    Sometimes I catch problems when I begin at the end and go back.
    Wierd but true:)

  6. I read the whole thing out loud, not just the "talky" parts. It's really painful (and time consuming), but also really helpful. I have one friend who swears by having someone else read out loud to her. And, I've even heard rumors of some people who read into a recorder and then listen to it...

  7. I read mine out loud to my dogs. They are great listeners, but alas, tend to wag their tales and smile at everything whether it works or not! Truly though, if you catch yourself reading a sentence twice, do something to fix it. If you, the author has a hard time making sense of it, your reader, who cannot see inside your head, will have no idea!

  8. Great suggestions, especially number 2! I think sometimes we writers get so excited we skip over important suggestions like this.

  9. Great tips! The comment about reading the whole thing aloud instead of just dialog is a good one. It takes a lot of time, but it sounds different out loud. I think I'll go tweet a link to this. :-)

  10. Thanks for the extra suggestions everyone. I've never tried reading my entire manuscript aloud...but that's probably a good way to catch typos and any awkward sentences.