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How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript

The editing process is a part of publishing you just can’t skip out on. Whether you’re going to self-publish or pitch your book to traditional publishers, every author has to conduct a self-edit on their manuscript. It’s a tedious process that most authors dread, but if you know what to look for, you’ll feel so much confidence in your book once you finish. (We promise!) 

The purpose of self-editing is to elevate and polish your manuscript before sending it through the publishing process. You will need to perform several rounds of self editing. Your first impression is the most important and you want to get it right the first time. Trust me, if you don’t take care during this portion especially, you will indeed have regrets. You don’t want your book to be released with a lot of typos or grammatical errors because there is no getting those copies back once they’ve been sold and shared out in the world. 

First, be sure you have a full understanding of the editing process as a whole before you dive in. This will help you know how all the pieces of the editing puzzle fit into place. 

Here are a few quick tips for self editing: 

  • Read your book as a reader, not as the writer
  • Read it on different devices
  • Leave time between reads – taking a break will allow you to see your manuscript with fresh eyes
  • Consider using software to aid you:

These are our favorite simple catches, that will also improve your writing:

  1. Omit needless words (Does it change the story/your point?) and redundancies (example: “She shrugged her shoulders.”).
  2. Replace overused words or phrases (we all have a few we need to catch) and overused adverbs and adjectives with strong nouns and verbs.
  3. Avoid clichés and hedging verbs, such as almost, slightly, a bit, etc.
  4. Ditch filler words: Like, On, Up, Down, That – unless used for clarity (example: “He sat (down) on the couch.”).
  5. Don’t double up on descriptions – pick the strongest one.
  6. Show, don’t tell.
  7. Use a single Point of View for each scene, similar to a camera lens.
  8. Trust the reader can understand; not every single thing needs to be described, including every move that your characters make.

Lastly, you want to read through your manuscript to assess each of the following: 

Perhaps pick two at a time to focus on as you read your story. 

Theme. Does the central conflict capture attention? Is it clear? Does it escalate gradually? Is it resolved? Could a reader summarize your story in a single sentence? 

Plot. Is the plot captivating? Believable? Flow logically? Are there holes in the plot? Do the twists make sense? 

Characters. Are the strengths, weaknesses, unique traits, and motivations clear in each of your main characters? Do they act believably? Are they relatable? Are the secondary characters supportive and purposeful? Are the main character arcs intriguing and clear?

Chapters. Does the opening scene draw in the readers? Does each chapter move the story forward? Are the scenes well paced? Are the transitions smooth? 

Dialogue. Is there a purpose for each conversation? Do they drive the scenes forward? Are the words reflective of the time, period, setting, and situation?

Perspective. Is the point of view/narrator’s voice clear and consistent? If there are changes of POV, are they obviously marked and in each character’s own voice? Is the reveal of information accurate to their knowledge?

Just like that, you’re ready to take this list and start your self-edits! When you’re ready to work with an editor, remember that Burning Soul Collective offers book editing services and we’re happy to answer any questions you have and be your partner through the process. We also have information on how to work with a professional editor

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