How to Self-Edit

Photo of a sharpened pencil, next to pencil shavings and small, gray pencil sharpener

Self-editing is an integral part of any writer’s craft.

Looking back over your work, writing specific paragraphs or sections over again can often be the only way to evaluate whether or not your writing is strong enough for publication.

The problem is that self-editing can be tedious and time-consuming.

Editing can be tough to look at your work with neutral eyes and edit the manuscript in ways that don’t wholly squash your voice as the author.


But the results would be best if you did the work.

The point of editing and proofreading is to recognize that you’ve already done the hard part.

The words are on the page.

The next part of your job is to examine the plot structure, the active vs. the passive voice, the tense of the work, and the words you’re using to ensure you’re getting your point across.

My only advice to you is this: be ruthless.

Cut a scene; cut three.

Remove an entire character.

Don’t like how you introduced or wove in a vital plot point?

Delete it and start fresh.

A book I recommend to help you get into the editing mindset is Steering the Craft: A Twenty-First-Century Guide to Sailing the Sea of Story by Ursula K. Le Guin.

Ideas on how to get started

Here are a few steps to get the process going. They don’t have to be in order, but if that works best for your editing process, there’s no one stopping you.

  1. Proofread the text. Use tools like Grammarly or to assist you. Don’t get too bogged down in proofreading that you’re spending your entire morning putting in a comma and then using up your whole afternoon taking it out.
  2. Change the font face and size. Times New Roman, 12 pt font, is the standard for manuscripts. Some publishers tend to accept your work in Calibri, as that’s the standard in Microsoft Word nowadays. Scroll through your word processor’s font list and give something like Antonio, Noto Sans, or for that extra spicy typewriter font, Courier New a starring role in your manuscript. You can always change it back before submission.
  3. Read the words aloud. I started the podcast because I wanted to hear the words on the page in my ear. Something about this step helps me to look at the words differently.
  4. Mix it up. Read the manuscript backwards. I’m serious; give a shot at a short passage from your work-in-progress.
  5. Walk away. If you’re feeling energized or perhaps you have a deadline, physically get up and walk away from your computer. Play a game on your phone, get a drink of water, take your dog for a walk.
  6. Take a break. Put the manuscript aside for a day, a weekend, or a month. Whatever your arbitrary window of time is, I promise that you’ll come back to the manuscript with brand-new eyes.
  7. Advertisement

Suppose you’ve written a song, a short story, a blog post, a poem, a lyric, a non-fiction book, a book, a comic, a textbook, a film, a novel, a script, a movie, a graphic novel, an album, a screenplay, a play, or a children’s book.

In that case, the chances are high that you will need to bring in a third party to edit your work.

Editing is always a good idea to reread it from a fresh perspective to make sure the plot makes sense, the characters are consistent, and the language is clear.

In conclusion, writing a story and then looking for errors is a good idea.

A good editor can be a priceless asset to your creative process.

It’s a service that I offer here through Writeropolis Industries.

Let’s talk!

Let’s connect!

I’m here to help you on your creative journey. So ask me anything.

You can connect with me on Discord during the week, email me directly, or book your FREE 15-minute consultation.

I promise to respond within 24 hours.

If you’re so inclined, I invite you to subscribe to my mailing list for downloadable writing resources and weekly emails from me about the writing life.

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