Self-Editing: How to do it well

Hi, guys!

If there’s one writing rule that I believe applies to every piece of writing, it’s that you NEED to edit. Don’t publish a rough draft.

That’s just bad juju.

But editors are expensive (for good reason). Editing is work.

It takes a long time and a lot of effort.

Many people say never ever publish without a professional edit.

But sometimes, that isn’t feasible financially.

That is NOT an excuse for publishing poor quality content, though.

It just means you have to do even work yourself.

So, if you’re a broke bitch from way back (*raises hand*) and have to rely on self editing, here’s the process I put my work through.

It isn’t fool proof. Some typos hang on, fighting tooth and nail, to make sure they make it into the final draft. That’s why there’s an industry standard of allowed typos. (1 for every 10,000 words, I think? Don’t quote me on that, I may very well be wrong.)

But this process helps me to feel better about the standard to which my work is edited.

For starters, study grammar. Learn that shit. If you struggle with commas, study comma usage. (I overuse them, so I’ve been writing with Grammarly open, letting it yell at me to break the extra comma use.)

If you struggle with showing possession on a noun that ends in an “s,” fucking study it. This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I once read a traditionally published book wherein the author gave the MC a last name that ended in an “s.”

(I’m going to say Childers, though that’s not the name from the book.) The possessive form ranged throughout the book from the correct Childers’ to Childers’s to Childerses, and even Childerseses.

My brain melted when I read that last one.

Please, if you’re going to self-edit, study grammar.

Now, the actual editing routine.

I do something a lot of people say not to do (in addition to self-editing, because apparently I’m a rule breaker). I edit as I write.

Any obviously misspelled words are fixed immediately. Like, before I type another word. I keep flow and pacing in mind as I write and adjust accordingly. My style uses sentence fragments, so I make sure the only ones in there are 100% intentional.

Since I’m a pantser, sometimes I come up with new things or realize I have a plot hole. That means I have to go back and fix stuff.

And I do. Right then.

Most would say to include a note somewhere and do it in edits. But I don’t. I fix it then, adjusting what needs adjusted before continuing to write.

So by the time I finish my “first draft,” it’s more like a second draft.

If you have trouble finishing manuscripts, I don’t recommend this. Just do another round of edits later.

Now, there’s some debate as to whether you should do a round of edits immediately after finishing writing (with it still fresh in your mind) or put it away and come back with fresh eyes.

I say, do both.

If you’re self-editing, you need to be thorough as fuck, anyway.

Now, there are several types of editing. Proofreading, checking for continuity errors, making sure it flows, looking for grammar and syntax errors, etc.

You can do each one separately, but I do all of them, every single time I edit.

After a few rounds, it’s time for beta readers. Because you need someone else’s eyes on your work. After a while, your brain is likely going to fill in details or skipped words because you know what’s supposed to be on the page.

But beta readers don’t. They can tell you when something doesn’t make as much sense as you think it does. They can tell you whether it works or fits in the genre you’re aiming for.

You can also find critique partners in writing groups. You read and critique their work, and they do the same for yours.
That allows for another perspective, i.e. someone who knows about formatting and marketing and flow and all that stuff.

Now. Please. For the love of all that is good, take their opinions into consideration. If they point out a blatant mistake, don’t get defensive. Just fix it.

If they have a valid point about a potential plot hole.

Fill the plot hole.

If they point out a style choice that they don’t like, consider it. Give it some thought. Decide whether it’s a flaw in your story or personal preference. (Books are, after all, very subjective.) But if all your beta readers have a problem with the exact same thing, chances are, it needs fixed.

Now, implement all the beta reader/critique partner feedback.

After that, you guessed it…another full round of edits.

After that?

I recommend getting Grammarly or some sort of computer editing program. There are a lot of them out there. I use Grammarly because it came highly recommended and it’s super easy to use. It plugs right into Word and pops up in the task bar, ready for use.

Whichever program you choose, go through your manuscript with it. I usually do that during another round of edits, fixing the things Grammarly finds when I get to them.

It might be alarming how many errors it finds, especially if you write fantasy and have a bunch of made up words/place names/species names. When I first opened Grammarly on Soul Bearer, it had something like 1500 errors.

Then, I added Aurisye’s name to the dictionary and knocked off a few hundred errors. Lol. Then, I added Rafnor’s name to the dictionary. Knocked off another few hundred. Each name (or place name) made a huge difference.

So did cutting all my extra commas.

And Grammarly fucking hates characters with accents. Be prepared to add a lot to the dictionary.

So don’t panic if it’s a huge number.

Then comes the “read aloud” round. No, you don’t have to read the whole thing out loud, yourself, chugging water to moisten your parched throat.

Word has a feature that will read whatever’s on the page to you. It mispronounced a lot of things, but it also shows you when a sentence doesn’t flow. Each word is highlighted when it’s read, so follow along looking for typos.

Plug in some headphones and listen to that emotionless voice coldly stabbing you with every sentence that needs shortened.

Then, maybe do one more round of normal edits.

And then, after all those rounds of edits (what was that, 8 rounds? 9?), your book should be good to go. As long as you did that first step and studied grammar. It doesn’t do any good to look for errors if you don’t know what to look for.

Anyway, this has been an incredibly long blog, so I’ll keep the update part short. I’m now 96 pages shy of finishing the final round of edits on World for the Broken, and an absolute fuck ton of handwritten stuff to add to the 17,721 words that I already have typed for my new WIP.

Don’t forget, the ebook version of my novella, Annabelle, will be on sale in the Amazon US and UK marketplaces the entire last week of January. Just 0.99 (dollars and pounds).

Keep reading. Keep writing.

Later.

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