Posted on October 20, 2023 at 9:06 AM by Guest Author
As an author, you want to publish the best version of your book possible. And that requires editing. Gain insight into when and how to self-edit your book.
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Self-editing is a crucial stage in the writing process for every author. If it seems daunting, rest assured you’re not alone in feeling this way. Everyone does! But learning how to self-edit your book is well worth the time and effort.
Here are just a few reasons why you should self-edit your book:
IT CAN HELP YOU REDUCE COSTS.
As you may have guessed, hiring a professional editor can be expensive. And if you’re just starting out, you probably have a limited budget to work with. So, every dollar counts. By self-editing your book, you can cut costs while still enhancing your book’s quality. It’s just a matter of going through it with a fine-tooth comb before passing it along to a professional. That way, you can reduce the amount of work your book needs.
IT’S A GREAT LEARNING OPPORTUNITY.
Self-editing your work gives you the chance to learn and improve as a writer. It forces you to become more familiar with your own writing habits, strengths, and weaknesses. As time passes, you’ll develop a deeper understanding of grammar, sentence structure, and storytelling. And each new project will be even better as a result!
IT CAN SPEED UP THE PUBLISHING PROCESS.
Professional editing can be slow going. Editors are often in high demand, and your book will be one of many they’re working on. But self-editing beforehand can help things along. You can submit a pre-edited manuscript so that fewer changes are required, which speeds up the publishing process.
Part of learning how to self-edit your book is determining when to start. Unfortunately, this can be tricky, as there isn’t a set rule for authors to follow. That may not be the answer you were looking for, but it’s the truth…
Just like writing, self-editing is a process that’s unique to every author. Some like to edit as they’re writing; others don’t edit until after a draft is finished to avoid losing momentum. And of those who wait until the writing part is done, many prefer to let at least a few weeks pass before picking up the manuscript again.
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision. But there are some factors that come into play. So, here is a short list of questions to help you decide:
Are you easily distracted?
If so, trying to write and edit simultaneously could slow you down considerably. Although you can correct any mistakes that jump out at you, it may be best to wait until your draft is complete. That way, you’re not trying to juggle too many tasks at once and can review the book as a whole.
Have you just finished your book?
If you just added the punctuation to the final page, it’s worth setting it down for a little bit. The reason is that you’re too close to your work. You can put some distance between you and your book by taking a break from it (even for a day). This allows you to come back to your book with fresh eyes, making it easier to spot errors and areas of improvement.
Are you using a beta reader?
If you have submitted your manuscript to a beta reader or plan to once it’s done, it’s wise to wait until you get their feedback. Their perspective can provide valuable insights, and their suggestions may guide your editing priorities. Plus, waiting until all the notes are in will make the self-editing process more efficient.
Do you have a deadline you need to meet?
If you’re working within a tight deadline, you need to plan self-editing accordingly. The last thing you want to do is wait until the last minute and deliver a mediocre book. So, try to schedule it to give yourself a little distance from your draft before diving back in, but not so much that you’re rushing through edits.
When it comes to self-editing, there isn’t really a wrong way to go about it. Different authors have their own strategies for approaching this process, and your own will likely evolve over time. But if you’re just getting started, it helps to have a list of steps to take and areas to address.
With that in mind, here are some guidelines for how to self-edit your book:
READ YOUR BOOK OUT LOUD.
First things first, you should start by reading your book out loud. This provides a different experience than just reading it in your head. By speaking the words you’ve written, it’s easier to catch mistakes and awkward wording. For example, if you run out of breath reciting a sentence, that’s a pretty good indication it should be reworked for easier readability.
IDENTIFY MAJOR STORY ISSUES.
Story issues have the biggest impact on fiction. That’s why it’s important to tackle them early on. This is referred to as developmental editing because it focuses on the big picture.
During this stage, you need to make sure your book checks the following boxes:
The plot is strong and engaging.
There is a reasonable number of subplots.
There is a clear and logical story structure.
The narrative point of view is consistent in each scene and chapter.
The book is free of plot holes.
If your book lacks any of these elements, it’s time to rewrite.
CHECK FOR CHARACTER PROBLEMS.
Your characters are a crucial part of your story (whether human or not), so you need to ensure they’re solid.
Every character should be there for a reason, big or small. Further, each should be a three-dimensional character rather than a flat one.
At a more granular level, you should also check that there aren’t any inconsistencies in how they’re written. Their actions should make sense based on who they are. Additionally, the way they speak shouldn’t drastically differ from chapter to chapter.
VERIFY EACH SCENE SERVES A PURPOSE.
It’s essential to make sure every scene in the story moves the plot forward. If a scene doesn’t serve a purpose, you should remove it. This can be tough, especially if you love a particular part you’ve written, but if it doesn’t contribute to the story, then it’s just fluff.
Moreover, your scenes should be connected, and transitions between scenes should be smooth.
ENSURE PACING IS ON POINT.
In learning how to self-edit your book, you can’t overlook the importance of pacing. If it’s too fast, the reader may wonder what happened. If it’s too slow, the reader may get bored.
To ensure your pacing is on point, you need to find the right speed and rhythm for your overall story and each part. Check that you’ve employed suitable literary devices to help set the pacing. If you’ve rushed through an important scene or prolonged a minor one, rewrite it to move it along in a way that makes sense.
CONFIRM INFORMATION IS ACCURATE.
Even if your book is a work of fiction, you should still check its accuracy. For example, if the location exists, it should match the real place. If it’s set in a particular time period, it should show what that period really looked like.
Of course, you have the freedom to play around somewhat, depending on the genre. But if you’re aiming for authenticity, always check that your information is accurate. This is especially important if you’re writing about real experiences or topics.
LOOK FOR REPETITIVE WORDS/PHRASES.
Too much repetition can make your writing seem lazy. Worse, it can annoy readers. That’s why you need to look for and remove repetitive words and phrases.
As you read through your book, pay close attention to those you tend to overuse. Ask yourself if the words are necessary in each case. If they aren’t, remove them. If they are, look for a synonym to break up the monotony.
Tip: Using your computer's Find and Replace function can make this task much easier.
PERFORM COPY EDITS.
Many authors groan when they hit the copy-editing phase, but it’s not one you can afford to skip. You must be sure your book is free of spelling errors, grammatical mistakes, and punctuation mishaps. To do this, you must go through your book line by line, correcting any technical blunders that could make you appear sloppy.
INSPECT YOUR FORMATTING.
Another vital part of how to self-edit your book is formatting. Ideally, you should do this as you’re writing.
However, it’s best to confirm it’s been formatted correctly as part of the editing process. That way, you can submit it for publishing once you’re satisfied with the final draft.
Generally, the format of a manuscript looks like this:
12-point Times New Roman font
Page breaks between chapters
Black text on a white background
Italics or quotation marks for dialogue
But keep in mind that if you’re self-publishing your book, you need to adhere to the guidelines of the platform you choose.
REVIEW IT AGAIN.
Last but not least, you should review your polished manuscript. If you’ve gone through the self-editing process carefully, there shouldn’t be too many issues left to address. However, doing a final run-through can ensure you’ve covered all your bases.
Although self-editing is challenging, there are ways to make it easier and more efficient. By leveraging tips and tools recommended by others, you can look forward to a less overwhelming endeavor. That’s why we’ve provided five tips for self-editing your book below.
BREAK UP SELF-EDITING INTO PIECES.
Instead of attempting to do all your self-editing at once, take it one piece at a time. You can even create a schedule for yourself to stay on track. For example, you could dedicate a few days to reviewing the plot, a few days to analyzing each chapter, a few days to doing copy edits, etc. Ultimately, it’s about streamlining your process and ensuring the plan you set up is realistic.
USE TOOLS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE.
There are several tools you can use for editing purposes. You may already be familiar with some, such as the Hemingway App and Grammarly, but if you’re not using them yet, it’s time to start. In addition to pointing out the technical mistakes you may otherwise miss, these tools can help improve the readability of your text.
PUT YOURSELF IN YOUR READER’S PLACE.
If you’re an author, chances are you’re a reader, too. And in that case, you know what a good story looks like. So, put yourself in your reader’s place to determine whether you’d read your own book. Ask yourself if the story grabs and keeps your attention, if there’s anything missing, if there’s anything that seems confusing, and so on. This is a great exercise, especially for new authors.
CONSIDER READING IN REVERSE.
As you’re figuring out how to self-edit your book, consider trying out this unconventional technique. It can be surprisingly effective! Instead of reading your book from start to finish, begin with the last chapter and work backward.
It disrupts the flow of your story, making it easier to focus on individual sentences and words. That way, you can catch errors and inconsistencies you might overlook when reading in the usual direction. Although it may take longer, the unique perspective from reverse reading can result in a more polished book.
REMEMBER IT WILL NEVER BE PERFECT.
This can be a tough pill to swallow, but your book will never be perfect. No matter how much time you spend editing, you’ll always think of something that could be changed and improved. At a certain point, you need to stop. Otherwise, it will never reach those you wrote it for.
Self-editing is a valuable skill that every author should develop. Although it might not replace the need for professional editing entirely, it can significantly improve the quality of your work, save you money, and speed up publishing. Investing time and effort into learning how to self-edit your book will help you establish yourself and boost your confidence. So, don’t underestimate the value of self-editing!
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