How to Become an Amazing Self-Editor
In order to become a great writer, you first need to learn to edit your own work. When you are writing your first draft, you are simply churning out words – it is the editing process that makes your writing shine.
This is why self-editing is a valuable skill.
You might think it’s best that you hire an editor and at some point you should – but the first edit should be your own. This will give you a better chance of being published since editors don’t have unlimited reading time on their hands. Your work will do much better if it’s properly edited – and who better to do that first edit than you.
If you are still not sure how to go about this whole self-editing process, here are some useful tips.
1. Edit the beginning of your work.
This is usually the weakest point of any writer’s work and something that – if done badly – will stop people from reading the rest. Revise your first line, make every word in it count – be precise and interesting.
This is a hook that will draw your readers in.
2. Read it aloud.
You can miss a lot by simply reading to yourself. What you should do is read every bit of your work aloud. That way you’ll be able to hear what works and what doesn’t
This can cut your editing time in half sometimes even though it might sound silly.
Even those tiny spelling errors will hardly escape you with this method.
3. Avoid using adverbs.
Anything that ends with a –ly is redundant and you should get rid of it. It weakens the writing. If you are using adverbs then you are not being precise enough. Replace the adverb with a stronger verb.
Adverbs are especially harmful if you are using them with said.
“Adverbs are often seen in the works of inexperienced authors and to us, editors, it is a sign of a piece of work that will need a lot of editing. Before you send your work to someone, find all of those pesky adverbs and replace them with a verb that packs a lot of punch. This will make your work a lot more appealing to publishers,” says Melanie Weston, editor at AustralianHelp.com.
4. Use your active voice.
If you catch yourself writing too many of was and were then you know that you are doing something wrong. Using the passive voice too much can weaken your writing and it is a sign of inexperience. Eliminate it.
Whenever you see, for example something was done by someone or anything similar, you should replace it with a more active sentence. This will immediately give your story some freshness.
5. Correct all of your grammar and spelling mistakes.
This is something you don’t have to worry about when writing the original first draft, but it’s definitely something you should eliminate when editing. If your writing has a lot of grammar and spelling mistakes, you can come off as someone who is not serious about being an author.
Here are some free tools that will make your job of proofreading and editing a lot easier.
- British Council Quick Grammar and GrammarBook.com are exceptional free grammar resources. In case you want to fix something but are not sure how, these are the sites to visit.
- Ginger and Grammarly are editing tools that you can use in case you are not sure how to achieve that professional level of editing. These two tools will provide you with everything editing related that you might need.
- Proofreading Tool and Paper Rater a proofreading tool that will catch any mistakes you might have made in your writing. This is a great tool that will give you peace of mind.
6. Use proper formatting.
This might not be so much related to writing itself, but how you present your work plays an important part in getting a lot of people to read your work.
Figure out the balance between the formatting you like and the one that will be most appealing to others and use it.
7. Don’t use any other dialogue tag other than ‘said’.
People cannot yawn, snort or grin the words they say. Simply replace every dialogue tag that is not said or, in some cases asked. Make your writing strong enough so that you don’t have to explain your character’s voice.
Your writing will be a lot stronger if you do this.
8. Show, do not tell.
When editing, find the sentences that sound weak and expand them with more detail. Bring the story closer to your readers – include all five senses.
9. Get rid of any clichés.
Create your own phrases instead. Any phrase that you hear or read on a daily basis doesn’t belong in your story. It will be much more interesting if you come up with some yourself.
10. Let your work rest before you edit it.
After you have finished your first draft, let it sit somewhere in your desk for a week or two, even longer if you can afford to do it. This way when you see it again you won’t be biased and you’ll be able to eliminate anything that makes it weaker.
Self-editing is never an easy job. It requires hard work and attention to details. However, self-editing can be extremely beneficial to your work. You know best what would be best for your writing and how to fix it. Take your time, be careful not to miss anything and enjoy making your work even better than it was before.