Even as a young writer, I know that every author needs an editor. But for my own growth, I want to learn how to self-edit before sending my manuscripts off in the future. Pull up your most recently saved draft, print a few pages, and grab a pen; it’s time to start editing your writing.
Whether you’re looking for a publisher or self-publishing, editing your story is one of the most important things you can do. I’m not just talking using spellcheck. It’s important to go deeper to make sure you’re communicating with the reader and what they are thinking. Don’t worry. There’s a very good chance that you’ll see a lot of changes and markings once you’re done, but these edits will make your manuscript (and your writing) better in the long run.
Tip #1: Take a Break
Stephen King suggests that writers take four to six weeks off after finishing the manuscript so when you come back to it, you can come back fresh. I take that time to work on writing prompts. Taking a break before you start editing gives you the chance to read your manuscript like anyone else would. You shouldn’t be 100% sure of what happens next when you read your book. When you take a break, you can surprise yourself with the good and the not so good…but, that’s the point, you want your writing to surprise you because that’s the only way you can truly figure out what’s working and what’s not.
Tip #2: Reread the Whole Story…Out Loud
This is one of my favorite tips to edit my children’s books. Hearing your book out aloud makes mistakes glaringly obvious. You’ll notice things that you don’t when you read to yourself silently.
As you read, have a pen and highlighter in hand ready to mark when you catch yourself thinking that sounds off or repetitive. It’s also good to highlight any words or phrases that you get stuck on. Lastly, reading your manuscript out loud helps with the voice for your characters and re-write as needed.
Tip #3: Check it
This editing tip will take time. Somethings you may have seen when you were reading out loud. But in a next read through go line by line to check for mistakes. During this step, cut long sentences in two, remove extra punctuation, check spelling, correct voice, etc. There are programs like Grammerly that you can use to help, but you’ll want to do a self-check too.
Tip #4: Flow, Flow, Flow
In writing flow matters; you don’t want chapters to feel choppy or the story may lose its momentum. I like to check the paragraph flow and move sections as needed. I also add in transition phrases to help between characters, location, or time frames. This is the step where you can cut dialogue or useless categories of the story.
Tip #5: It’s in the Details
In this editing tip, you want to make sure that you’re not placing different items or beings that didn’t quite fit together with the genre of the story. It’s also good to check for small details. For example, if you say that Jenny’s mom drives a green car, but later you say it’s blue then you want to fix those details.
This is particularly helpful as you’re describing characters and locations in your book so you want to make sure that both the voice and the look stays the same throughout.
Tip #6: Reread Again
This tip is simple; once you’ve read it and made some changes you can’t stop! Read your manuscript again. In fact, it’s good to read it out loud again and repeat tip #2 above. In this read, you want to keep an eye out for your crutch words and remove them.
Tip #7: Don’t over-edit
There is a fine line between editing and over-editing. Take a break in the editing process or risk seeing everything as a problem that needs to be rewritten. Even with all of these self-editing tips, your book will not be perfect and that’s okay. You’ll have other professionals in the publishing process to help you make your book the best it can be.
Katrina Kusa is the 13 year old author of The Kingdom of the Lizards and There Once Was a Cat. Her fantasy children’s books are inspired by animals and nature. Learn more about this young writer today!