10 Tips For Self-Editing Your Manuscript

Hey reader, you’re looking fly today. I’m digging those cool vibes you’re putting out. Oh, and by the way, editing sucks. It sucks, big time.

Hot tip: Sweeten up the victim with compliments, then hit ‘em over the head with the bad news.

I do not enjoy editing; I do not have a perfectionist bone in my body. Editing is about awareness, spotting errors and cleaning up your manuscript, so that it is a flawless work of art. Meh, I’m more like:

But there’s a time and place for that, right now, we’ve got to edit.

“Great, but how do I fix what I don’t understand? I should leave it to a professional.”

It would be all kinds of awesome to just write and hire an editor but most newbie writers can’t afford this option (although if you have moola to spend, this is where you should make it rain). I have no experience of working with professional editors but my gut feeling is that they do not appreciate receiving shitty  manuscripts ridden with errors.

We are wordsmiths, right? Our words translate into money in the pocket, so whether we enjoy it or not—we must at least have a basic understanding of the editing process.

Tips to get you started:

#1 Edit first, proofread later

  • Editing is concerned with improving the quality of your writing. This involves removing unnecessary chapters/scenes, fact checking, rewriting to remove ambiguity.
  • Proofreading identifies typos, punctuation and spelling errors, poor grammar and formatting issues e.g. page breaks
  • You would hate to spend hours polishing every sentence only to cut out huge chunks of the content later.

#2 Print out the manuscript

  • After reading your manuscript a 100 times, you become so familiar with the script that your mind automatically fills in missing words. Reading your work in a different format helps with this.
  • Try changing the font, make the font size larger—this helps to shake things up and minimise your unconscious bias.
  • Randomise the reading of your chapters to break the monotonous pattern.

#3 Read aloud

  • Reading aloud helps you spot awkward/clunky sentences, missing or repetitive words and spelling errors.
  • Try your out-loud editing early in the morning when it is quieter (or at time where there are fewer distractions).
  • Read aloud to someone else (make that poor sod several cups of coffee).
  • Get a second pair of eyes on it. Look for someone who enjoys reading your genre.

#4 Trim sentences

  • Long sentences are tricky to read and harder to punctuate correctly.
  • Short sentences grab the reader’s attention.

#5 Pruning the redundant

  • Look out for repetition of ideas, words or phrases.
  • Avoid using words that aren’t needed because their meaning is implied.
  • Resist the urge to explain, give the reader some credit.
  • Examples:

“The big, giant” Giants are not known to be small.

“She blinked her eyes.” What else was she going to blink?

“The lecture on editing was dull and boring. It was putting Seymour Butz to sleep” The lecture on editing put Seymour Butz to sleep.

“She threw away the broken toaster that did not work.”

Homer was mad. He kicked the chair. “Bart, you’re going to drive me crazy,” he said, angrily.

#6 People say things—use “said” as the tag

  • They do not laugh/snarl/spit/wheeze/growl out words. No, really! You try growling out this sentence:

“I’m not growling.”

*hides her face* I’m cringing because I’m guilty of this no-no.

  • Aim: separate the words from the action.

Example:

Not: “I can’t do this. I give up,” sighed Irma Kwitta.

Try: Irma Kwitta sighed. “I can’t do this. I give up,” she said.

You could even leave out “she said” because this was implied by the first sentence.

#7 Commas

  • I obsess over commas. After hours of looking at sentences, every spot looks like a good gap to place a comma. I do, however, have 2 tips to share:

First tip: Put a comma in when using speaker tags.

Example:

Marco said, “I love pizza.”

Second tip: Place a comma before and after sentence interrupters. Interrupters are words or phrases that disrupt the flow of the sentence. If you remove the interruption, the sentence will still make sense.

Examples:

My cat, on the other hand, jumps on the bed as soon as he hears me close the door.

Your wife, in my opinion, cares more for her soapies than she does for you.

#8 Avoid cliché’s

  • This includes words, phrases and ideas. Your detective doesn’t have to be an alcoholic, serial cheater who drives a sports car and has a passion for a quirky hobby.

 #9 Give it a rest

  • Take a break. We need you sane for this exercise.
  • When you are fresh and percolated like the coffee you just made, then put on your editor’s hat and pull out your magnifying glass.
  • You can’t do it all on one day, focus on specific aspects of editing.

#10 End it

  • Perfection is an unattainable target.
  • You’ve probably found at least 10 errors in this post. *cringe*
  • That nagging feeling that you’ve missed something, won’t go away.
  • Scrub and polish your work to the best of your ability and then let this sink in:

A published piece with a few errors is better than a file that sits on your desktop (and never sees the light of day).

(Uh-oh!)

 

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