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How to Self-Edit Your Novel

So you’ve written a book, and you probably think it sucks. It’s time to run through your work and begin edits, but you don't know what you’re actually looking for. Today I’m going to walk you through my self-editing checklist to get your WIP ready for its editor.

The first two steps are key, and that’s:

  1. Don’t edit while you write (don’t even look at it)

  2. Step away from your work after you write “the end”

I recommend taking at least a month away from your WIP, unless you have terrible memory like I do, in which case I typically come back in 2-3 weeks. I get a printed and bounded copy from Staples for between $20-40. Play with your font choices here as it can also help you give fresh eyes to your work.

Now it’s time to begin. I focus on developmental work right off the bat: are the character arcs completed by the end? Do I need more content to get the story across? Look through what you have written, and see if it makes sense to you as a reader, not a writer.

Focus on your tenses and point-of-view. Do you accidentally head-hop in third-person limited? Is some of the book present tense and some past? Are there pronoun mix-ups?

Take advantage of resources like Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway, all free tools you can use to better round out your work. It will point out basic grammatical errors and abnormal sentence structures.

Research the Chicago Manual of Style. This is the standard style guide for all fiction, and it helps to look into it to better understand what they expect of your WIP.

Throw away your filler words. A quick “search for” these words and you’ll be shown hundreds of filler words for you to remove and give better, stronger descriptions for. Here are the commonly used filler words:

  • very

  • seriously

  • really

  • some

  • rather

  • little

  • even

  • just

  • perhaps

  • maybe

  • seem

  • that

  • so

  • basically

  • about

  • only

  • slightly

After reading through your WIP (over and over again), it’s time to look for an editor. There are three types of edits you may need for your novel:

  • developmental edits

  • copy edits

  • proofreading

I provide freelance editing services for indie authors. Contact me today to work with me. I also post writing tips every Tuesday. Sign up with your email to be notified when I post.

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