5 Ways to Self-Edit Your Work

Image by Christin Hume

Image by Christin Hume

Self-editing is useful for so many reasons; it brings you closer to your practice; it gives you a better understanding of how you write and what habits—good and bad—you’ve picked up along the way; and finally, it teaches you that writing is labour, made all the more rewarding by re-working and re-writing.

Simply put, self-editing makes you a better writer! That said, it can feel rather overwhelming. Where to start? When to “finish”? Here are five ways to help you self-edit your work. 

1. Read Your Work Aloud

We cannot stress enough how important it is to read your work aloud—especially when dialogue is involved! Yes, it will take some getting used to, but it’s key to getting a feel for pacing and identifying awkward and potentially hazardous sentences. We’re pretty confident you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can identify the stumbling blocks you’ve barely noticed at any other time. 

2. Eliminate Your Most Used Words and Phrases

Every writer has a list of words or phrases that they use consistently. Make note of what tends to pop up frequently, and when it comes time to edit, comb through your manuscript and see how many repetitions you can replace or eliminate. Unsure of what you’re overusing? Reading your manuscript aloud will also reveal repetition!

3. Eliminate Over-Used Verbs

Similar to a list of go-to words, a lot of writers over-use the same weak adjectives and verbs. You can find plenty of handy online lists to use, but major players are words like “walked,” “looked,” and “was”—in other words, basic verbs that do not give any flavour or originality to the act it described. Compare them to “sauntered,” “gazed,” and, well, you get the picture. Yes, these verbs are handy for getting a character from A to B, but they lack depth and interest, and don’t contribute to the hopefully vivid mental picture in your reader’s mind. 

4. Purpose and Effectiveness

Another method of self-editing is determining a paragraph or scene’s purpose and whether or not that is being conveyed 100-per-cent effectively to the reader. When going back through your manuscript, ask yourself: What is the purpose of this scene or narrative block? Is it serving a specific purpose? is it doing the best job possible at conveying that to the reader? Can you say the same thing in fewer words? Can your description be more colourful and/or more purposeful? 

5. Come Back To It (Again and Again)

One of the most valuable editing tools is knowing when to walk away from your manuscript and take a break. There’s nothing worse than revising to—or past—the point of total unrecognition, and finding that you’ve created even more work for yourself. If you’re feeling unsure, it’s always best to come back to it with a fresh set of eyes and a solid game plan. 

[6. Offload It]

You will reach a point where you feel like you’ve done the very best and the very most you can. Oftentimes, it’s the point when you feel like you “can’t see the wood for the trees.” This is the right time to call your draft done and reach out to a professional. Don’t get us wrong—you’re not done by a long shot—but you are at the point of commissioning a Manuscript Assessment from an editor you trust and admire, and who will shine new light on your work and help you up-level your writing in ways that’ll make you feel giddy. If you’re at step six, babe—congratulatiooons!! You are cordially invited to book a chat, free of charge, with Kate to talk best next steps for you and your book baby. 

Happy writing, sugar!

SPINE

For writers w. backbone.


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KATE JUNIPER   Editor, writer & founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

KATE JUNIPER

Editor, writer & founder of JEC. She's inspired, most often, to write about writing and how women (writers) can fix the world. She has a lot of opinions, actually.

HAYLEY EVANS   Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including  Scene 360  and  Illusion Magazine .

HAYLEY EVANS

Hayley is Copy Editor/ Editing Ninja for JEC. She is also an arts journalist for several online publications including Scene 360 and Illusion Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF   Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for  This Side of West,  Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for  The   Albatross , and Contributing Writer for  The Martlet  and  Saltern Magazine.

GEORGIA RUDELOFF

Georgia is JEC's Content Writer, a published poet, and past Poetry Editor for This Side of West, Modern and Contemporary Genre Editor for The Albatross, and Contributing Writer for The Martlet and Saltern Magazine.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS   Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.

JAIME CLIFTON-ROSS

Jaime is a Research Curator at Royal Roads University and as such knows a thing or two re: communications. She is JEC's Communications Specialist.