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Seven Steps of Self-Editing: How to Polish Your Manuscript to Perfection

self edit your manuscript

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.
For instance:

  • 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.

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