5 Self-Editing Steps for Your Writing – Before Calling in a Pro

I make no secret of the fact that I think ALL books need to be professionally edited before publishing.

Yes, even yours!

But there are some things you can (and should) do before hiring a professional editor.

5 self-editing tips for your #book Share on X

1. Step away from the project

Have you ever noticed that when you re-read your writing after a week (or a month) away from it that typos, grammar or spelling errors, clunky sentences, etc. just LEAP off the page at you?

It’s because your brain isn’t telling you what you KNOW should be there but is showing you what’s actually on the page. Kinda nifty, right?

Whenever time allows, step away from your completed project for a week or more. Then come back and re-read with fresh eyes to catch what was hidden before. In a perfect world, I’d say give yourself 2-3 weeks of “rest” before editing it again; in the real world we rarely have that much time.

021616-Edit2. Grab your red pen and kill a tree!

Set your manuscript up to be double spaced and 12 pt font – then print it out! (Single sided, not double.) Grab a cuppa of your favorite beverage, your red pen, and go to town. At this stage, you’re not looking for commas (the details) but for the broader strokes in the manuscript that might not be working.

And yes, really do print it! Your brain will see things differently on a paper than on screen. Plus, you can’t get “lost” on your computer (research, Facebook, etc.) as easily when you’re not on your computer!

3. Find (and kill) your bad habits

We all have idiosyncrasies in our writing: words we overuse, punctuation we’re in love with (that we may or may not know how to use properly), words we always misspell or misuse, etc. And you’re probably aware of what your bad habits are! So at this stage of the editing, you’re on the hunt to find them and kill them.

This might be varying your vocabulary, asking yourself if you really need that parenthetical statement, or hunting down your overuse of pronouns. Whatever it is, it’ll save your editor time and headache if you can start the elimination now.

Plus, it can save your pocketbook because your manuscript will be cleaner for the editor – and potentially save her some work.

021616-Boring4. Cut! Cut! Cut!

When you’re trying to sound like the expert you are – sometimes you sacrifice clarity and brevity for complication and $5 words. However, most of the time, you don’t sound intelligent because your reader is left scratching her head wondering if the point she’s getting is the point you’re trying to make.

That old adage that says to write for a 5th grade level…

Well you don’t need to only use small words but make clarity and brevity your friend! If you can say it in fewer words, that’s usually the better option.

5. Ditch the cliché

The challenge with clichés is that they often convey something clearly – that’s why they’ve been immortalized! So put on your creativity hat and re-write that cliché into its base meaning – and then dig into that meaning to create a new simile or metaphor that will be fresh for your reader.

There’s one caveat: don’t sacrifice powerful for cute! Occasionally (and this is VERY rare) the cliché is the best, cleanest, simplest option to get your point across. But this is very rare!

Self-editing can really help your editor - and save you money! Share on X
Once you’ve done all the self-editing you can (broad strokes) then you can go through and look for commas and typos, etc.

When you’re delivering the manuscript to your editor, be sure to clue her in for anything she should be looking for specifically – like if you know you misuse commas or have a word that always trips you up in spelling or usage.

Kim Galloway
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