Congratulations on completing your manuscript! But writing is only half the battle. Now, it’s time to refine, polish, and ensure your work shines. Here’s a simple seven-step guide to help you self-edit like a pro.
1. Give It Time:
Let it Rest: After finishing your draft, take a break. A week, maybe even a month. This allows you to approach your work with fresh eyes and a clear perspective.
2. Big Picture Edits:
Plot, Characters, & Consistency: Before diving into the nitty-gritty, look at the overarching elements.
- Is the plot coherent?
- Do character arcs make sense?
- Are there plot holes or inconsistencies?
3. Dialogue Check:
Realism & Character Voice: Dialogue brings characters to life.
- Does it sound natural and authentic?
- Is each character’s voice distinct?
For example, if Anna is a fiery lawyer, she shouldn’t sound meek unless it’s for a purpose.
4. Show, Don’t Tell:
It’s a golden rule. Instead of writing, “Sam was angry,” show it: “Sam’s face turned crimson, his hands balling into fists.”
5. Grammar & Syntax:
Now, focus on the mechanics. Use tools like Grammarly or ProWritingAid, but also trust your instincts.
- Passive Voice: “The book was read by Jane” vs. Active Voice: “Jane read the book.”
- Strong Verbs: Instead of “She went quickly,” use “She dashed.”
6. Sensory & Literary Devices:
Make your scenes immersive.
- Use all five senses: What does the setting look, sound, feel, smell, and taste like?
- Employ literary devices: Metaphors, similes, and personification can add flair to your writing.
7. Final Read Through:
Read your work aloud or have a text-to-speech tool read it for you. You’ll catch odd phrasing, repeated words, or sentences that just don’t flow.
Bonus Tip: Feedback is Gold!
Consider getting beta readers or joining a writing group. External perspectives can provide invaluable insights and catch things you might’ve missed. If you need more help, you can get a critique from Book Butchers Editing.
Self-editing is an essential skill for any writer, and while it requires patience and attention to detail, the end result—a polished, compelling manuscript—is undeniably worth the effort.