Self-editing is not a skill that comes perfectly paired with great writing.
Not all writers are good editors. Why?
- It’s difficult to see your own errors
- You’ve seen it too many times and practically have it memorized
- You’re sick of looking at it by that point
- It makes sense to you, or you wouldn’t have written it
- You’re too close to it
The aspects of editing many writers are good at include:
- They have the best overall understanding of the concept of their story
- They know the characters best
- They get what makes a good story
- They are readers, and understand readers
Before you start editing, it’s important to understand what type of editing you’re undertaking.
- Proofreading: Picking out typos, missed words, misplaced commas, etc.
- Line editing/Copyediting: Critiquing sentence and paragraph structure, repetition, word choice, etc.
- Content/Developmental Editing: Story, character, flow, cohesion, etc.
It’s also important to give yourself some time away from the project before you start editing
- Begin the editing process by NOT editing
- Step away for a while
- Get fresh eyes
- Read something in your genre
- Read critically for style, flow, and pacing
- Forget the details
- Do something non-writing related!
The overall editing process is broken into several stages:
- Read the entire text and focus on plot/character issues
- Focus on wording and readability
- Focus on word choice and sentence structure
- Focus on grammar and punctuation
- Final review to polish
Make use of tools that can help make the editing process easier and more efficient:
- Run Spellcheck
- Run Autocrit, Grammarly, or ProWritingAid
- Print it out if possible/change the format
- Many authors edit better in hardcopy
- Read in different format than the one you wrote it in (like on your Kindle)
- Get out your Freshman Comp books (Elements of Style is a classic)
Before you dive into typos and comma usage, think big picture when it comes to editing
- What is the point of your story?
- What is your character meant to accomplish?
- What do you hope the reader takes away at the end?
- Why did you write this book?
As you start editing, think like a reader
- Change your perspective: As you’re writing, it’s difficult to be objective, so you need to start thinking like a reader
- Read the story critically like you would any other book: What do you like? What don’t you like? What stands out as out of place?
Evaluate the plot as you read and identify weak areas
- Create a timeline as you read: Is the timing consistent? Is the pacing consistent with the timeline?
- Are there plot holes or unanswered questions? Don’t attempt to answer them yet, but write them down
- Does the reveal of information come logically? Where do the characters find answers? When do they find answers?
- Is there enough complexity to remain interesting? Is their too much filler to cover up loose plotting?
Great characters can make or break a story, so focus on characters and their growth and development while editing
- Character Consistency: Character BIO (know the details), Who is this character on page 1? Who is this character on the last page? What does their dialogue sound like? Write down a sample from the beginning, middle, and end and compare. What is their world view, attitudes, and ethics?
- When to break consistency: Situational (Events or knowledge drastically changes something and they act outside their norm, i.e. “Insanity is a perfectly natural reaction to an unreasonable situation.”) or Paradox (The reader thinks they know the character and later learns more that changes who they are)
Lastly, check the overall fit of your story elements
- Point of View/Tense: Is this the best point of view or tense for this story?
- Style: Does this style of writing fit the character and story type?
- Structure: Does the way the character move through the plot make sense?
The purpose of this first, full edit is to identify major plot, story, character, and content issues that need to be addressed before any further editing is done.