5 Things to Add to Your Self-Editing Checklist
For most writers, the most fun is creating everything. You have this world inside of you with characters that won't shut up and when you're done telling their story it's like taking a really satisfying sigh of relief. Then you realize: Crap, I have to read this many more times and change everything. If you're like me, this is your favorite stage in the writing process. Most people despise it.
It's easy to get overwhelmed with revising and editing your own work, but it's also important to hack into it before you pay an editor such as myself to do the same thing.
And you want an editor. Trust me. You don't want to just self-edit and call it a book. You need an editor's eyes. I mean it. But...
The first step is to revise the work yourself so your editor isn't concentrating on things that could have been easily caught before it got to them.
Here's why: You want your work to be the best it can be. You want it to shine brighter than you ever thought possible while you were writing the rough draft. In order to achieve this, you want to send the cleanest copy of your manuscript to your editor so they can focus on bigger things that you missed during your own editing.
Here are 5 things you can do to your manuscript today to make it better for your editor.
1. Formatting issues
Although this technically isn't part of the "writing" process, an improper format can be distracting. I'm not saying you have to make everything perfect because that would be insane when lots of things are going to change before you're ready to publish/query. However, fixing small things goes a long way and it's done in seconds.
No extra spaces between sentences.
I was never taught this, but many people in grade school (or whenever they started to type on a computer) were taught to end a sentence, insert two spaces, and then start a new sentence. In my research into why so many people do this, I found that it comes from the typewriter. WHAT. You aren't writing on a typewriter (I hope). You don't need double spaces. Here's a good article (and funny!) about why this practice is wrong.
No extra spaces between paragraphs
Similar to the double spacing between sentences, an extra space between paragraphs is something easily fixed. Here's a good, short, and sweet piece on that subject. This goes for whether your work is single or double spaced. No excuses! Don't do it and if you do, get rid of them!
Dialog should be formatted properly as well
*Check to see if where you're submitting/publishing your work has specific guidelines and try to get them down from the beginning--one last thing to worry about!
2. Over-used words
This is something you can do while you're re-reading your work. I keep a running list of words I over-use and then when I'm done I search the document for them and either change the word or get rid of it altogether. This makes your manuscript cleaner and deleting or changing something so simple subtly makes the work stronger without having to put in much effort at all. Words that I always have to cut out or change include: gently/gentle, smile, heavy, silent, and so many more! Through this step in your self-editing, you'll get to see which words you lean on and learn how to better get your ideas across.
Another super easy thing to pay attention to while you're writing and revising. Consistency errors are so easy to avoid, but that doesn't mean we don't make them. You can make things easy for yourself by also taking note of what things need to stay the same throughout the entire work. For example, if you capitalize one term such as Dragon Lord, you want to capitalize them all. If your character has 1,000 coconuts on page one, you don't want them to have one thousand coconuts on page one hundred.
4. Does the plot make sense?
Here we come to a bigger part. Before you get upset, just take a breath and let me explain an easy way to determine this. Ready? number your chapters/sections/etc. and write down all the key points that happen. I've done this different ways: with colored note cards and a cork board, with a notebook, on a poster board, on the back of an old pizza box at 3 a.m...
Anyway, once you've done this, you'll be able to step back and look at the important aspects of the story without being so attached to it--just the information and none of the things that make you fall in love with the world. You'll be shocked at how much you can find doing this. I know I always am and I've done it over 20 times in my writing career.
5. Weak words and descriptions
Last but not least, you want to get rid of anything weak, vague, and doesn't represent your best work. Is this character "beautiful" or "perfect"? No they aren't. They are radiant when they smile and their hair is lustrous and they smell like lilac and make your heart seize. Get what I'm saying here? You want to fix as many weak descriptions as you can so you can concentrate on more pressing matters, like why exactly this character smelling like lilac gets your motor running. Sounds like an old lady to me, but what do I know? In any case, switching vague to specific is a good rule of thumb.
That's all for this week, fellow writers! Remember, revising doesn't have to be this scary, self-deprecating black hole with no hope of light. Jut take things in small steps and you'll be okay!
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