No Editor, No Problem: Self-Editing Tips for Writers

Every writer knows how important the role of an editor is to the success of their book.

However, if you’re a self-published author, you may not have the budget or resources to afford to hire an editor. This means you’ll need the tools to self-edit your book.

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“To write is human, to edit is divine.” — Stephen King

But editing is a lot different than writing, especially when it comes to editing your own work. Find out what is self-editing, and five self-editing tips for writers who have to wear both the writer and editor hats.

What Is Self-Editing?

Self-editing is the process every writer should undertake after completing their first draft, whether you’re hiring an editor or not.

When you self-edit, check for some of the following straightforward errors:

  • Grammar mistakes
  • Spelling errors
  • Typos
  • Passive voice
  • Clarity of thought
  • Subject-verb agreement
  • Awkward sentences
  • Homonyms

Beyond the technical aspect of self-editing, creative writers edit aspects of their created world for consistency and believability. Self-published authors need to edit dialogue, character development, timeline of events, consistency and vibrance of setting.

Why Self-Editing Your Book Is Important

Without the strategic sculpting of your raw writing through self-editing, your readers may not grasp all of your great ideas because of mistakes like grammar and spelling errors, or inconsistency in your story’s timeline of events.

Being a skilled self-editor is crucial in shaping your writing so it’s ready for the eager eyes of your future readers.

Plus, if you’re looking to get your book into the hands of a big publisher, the first two pages are all a professional editor reads before they give your book a big break or the boot.

In these first two pages, an editor can tell how much editing is needed to make your manuscript publishable. If it needs too much work, they might not find the labor cost of fixing these mistakes to be worth the effort.

Follow these tips to give your work the edge it needs to stand out among all the other self-published works.

1. Take a break

Step away from your writing for at least a few days before you approach it for your first round of edits.

Come back to it with a fresh perspective — this will help you identify certain sections that may have felt right when you initially wrote them, but look awkward with a fresh set of eyes.

Sometimes just getting time away from your writing helps you notice inconsistencies in characters, language or awkward wording that you didn’t see before.

2. Read your work aloud

Reading your work aloud is an important self-editing tip for writers.

When you get the words off of the page and into your mouth, you’ll quickly hear wording or long-windedness you need to revisit. Dialogue will either sound convincing or flat.

If you trip up on a sentence when you read it aloud (even if it made sense in your mind when you wrote it), your first-time readers probably will, too.

3. Read your writing in a new format

You’d be surprised what reading your writing in a different format can reveal when you’re self-editing.

Print out the pages, read your writing on your phone or tablet instead of your laptop, or even just change the font size or color. Seeing your words in a different way can reveal necessary edits your eyes glossed over in the old format.

4. Use free editor apps

Free online editing tools can help improve your writing without costing a penny.

Tools like the Hemingway app, Grammarly and ProWritingAid detect many common grammar and spelling errors, among others.

5. Use a self-editing checklist

Seasoned self-published writer and professional editor, Jerry Jenkins, has a 21-part self-editing checklist that gets into the nitty-gritty of what to look for when editing your book, beyond basic grammar, spelling, and diction.

Even if you don’t use this, having a checklist provides a great reminder of every little thing to look for. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the story and look at it subjectively, so a checklist can help you remain accountable and objective.

Pro tip: Print out the checklist and hang it up near your desk or writing space so you can keep these things in mind throughout the writing process.

Make self-editing your writing a lot easier with these free editing apps >

Adam user

President & CEO,
Steuben Press

Adam Ellis has worked in the book industry since 2002, when he was first exposed to the wonderful world of Self Publishing. Over the years he has worked with thousands of authors and helped to produce, print and publish countless books.

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