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How to Self Edit your Work

Congratulations, you have finished your first draft! This is an amazing achievement and the first thing you should do is celebrate.

Now we edit!

Let’s face it, nothing is perfect the first time around. Even if you plan on hiring a professional editor, you will still need to do some self-editing before turning it over. You’ll be surprised how much you can improve before giving it to someone else to look over, saving yourself money and your editor time.

So what should you be looking out for in your self-edits?

Here is a quick list which, though not exhaustive, should give you a good framework to delve into self editing your WIP.

When going through your manuscript (MS) you should look out for:

  • Plot holes

  • Scenes to add (to) or change

  • Character consistency

  • Character voice

  • Timelines

  • Is the dialogue natural?

  • Symbols & motifs

  • Setting - double check for white rooms

  • Senses - include 2-3 in each scene and

  • have the character note things they see

  • Character development - make sure they

  • have full arcs

  • Sentence structure

  • Filler words

  • Check tenses

  • SPAG (spelling, punctuation & grammar) - leave this until the very end

What are my self editing top tips?

Revisions are bigger picture changes as opposed to editing us more detail oriented (and they’re also different than a re-write). You will do revisions in the first few drafts and then move on to the smaller edits. It is easy to become overwhelmed when editing, so make sure that you edit in stages. Many writers do anywhere between five and ten drafts before they are happy with their book.

I also edit my story on another medium (paper/ e-reader) and then when I put these edits back into the computer, it feels like it is another edit.

In addition to this, I always keep a notebook handy while I edit so I can note down symbols, plot holes, & questions I have as well as keep track of quotes for book promos.

When it comes to dialogue, make sure you read it aloud with someone to make sure that it feels natural and realistic.

It is also important that you step away from your story for a good amount of time so that you can read it with fresh eyes - most writers wait 1 week to 1 month between stages of edits (longer for heavier edits).

Lastly it is important to read lots to learn sentence structures etc. so that you know what to look out for when editing.

I have a process when I am self editing which always keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. Download my checklist when to help you get started with your edits.

Self Editing Checklist (1)
Download PDF • 1.21MB

I hope that has been useful to start you on your self editing journey. Good luck and why not tune into my editing podcast in collaboration with Skye Horn called Editing Tipsies: quick self-editing tips you can use today to make your writing the best it can be. We talk about how we use it in our own writing process and give you some how-tos so you can start implementing it into yours!

Meet RaeLynn Fry

Rachel loves all things Young Adult. She writes and reads in multiple long as it’s YA. Her current dystopian series, The Corporation Series (Caste, Outcast, The Heir), is available now with the last installment coming out in 2021.

She lives in Idaho with her husband and two kiddos. She loves coffee, music, dance, the outdoors, and a good handbag and pair of shoes. And she is still in search of the perfect scary movie. You can find her on Instagram, Goodreads, and Facebook, @RaeLynnFry.

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