They say a doctor does not treat himself. This is also almost true for a writer too. Indeed, most of the older players in the writing game will hardly try any attempt at self-editing. But technology has changed the writing game with self-publishing.
If you are interested in self-publishing, it would not make commercial sense to engage a professional editor. Self-editing makes you a better writer too as you will learn to recognize and avoid common mistakes like using “its” instead of “it’s.” Here are the top tips to help you with self-editing.
Take a break
….and come back later. Something all of my writer friends tells me to do once I've finished a manuscript. "Shelve it for a month Rhianne and then come back to it." and I'm like "BUT I NEED TO WORK ON SOMETHING". Which is fine, work on something. Just don't let that something be the WIP you just finished. Start something new.
Taking a break from your work will clear your head such that you come back with a fresh eye. You can then look at your work more objectively and pick out sub-plots that don’t make sense, typos and other faux-pas.
Read out loud
Reading your work out loud will help you check out if the storyline is coming out right. If you are editing a voluminous block of work, try using computer text-to-speech programs. Hearing your work will help you catch misspellings, repetitive words and clunky sentences.
This is something I do even while writing the drafts. If something doesn't sound right in my head, I read it out loud and see where I naturally pause or if it sounds weird then I change it.
Get rid of misused words
Do a Google search for commonly misused words and search for them in your work. Some of the words that are likely to feature in this list include very, comprise, comprehend, bemused etc. There will also be those much abused modifiers ending in ‘ly.’ If you are using MS-Word or any other text editor, hit ‘Ctrl+F ‘to see how much addicted you are to these words.
Eliminate useless vocabulary
Complex words only make your readers confused about the plot instead of captivating them. Words like myriad, plethora or acerbic are beyond the level of most casual readers. An interesting study by marketers on the most successful ads on Google found out that the top ads are written in ninth grade language. Go through your work and use the thesaurus to eliminate unnecessarily complex words.
As much as you should use simple language, do not assume all your readers are dumb. Many can tell the difference between “its” and “it’s.” Proofread your work for correct punctuation. Pay special attention to the use of commas, or lack thereof.
At the other end are those who prefer their work with loads of exclamation marks paired with question marks, to communicate different levels of excitement. It would be better to work on the storyline and create excitement in the story rather than force it.
Careful on the tenses
Check that your tenses are correct especially when writing in past tense.
What tips do you have for when you self edit your novel? Leave them in the comments below!