Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Writing Tip Wednesday--Self-Editing

Whether you wait until The End or make changes as you go, every manuscript needs Self-Editing. Even the most-experienced writer can make unintentional mistakes, like leaving out a word or referring to a character by the wrong name. So, when you're story is finished, set it aside for a couple days (or weeks) to lose some familiarity and then open it again to tackle self-edits.

As always, use the method that works best for you! Do you prefer fixing all problems in order on the first read-through? Would you rather focus on one area at a time--content before grammar and punctuation? If you know your weakest parts of writing craft, you might try looking at each of those issues separately. Learning to correct your errors will go a long way in improving your skills.

The first thing I look at when I'm ready to dive into the editing cave is formatting. Are my margins and indentations okay? How about all the other areas I covered in my standard manuscript formatting post? These are usually the most obvious and can set the (good or bad) tone for the editor, agent, beta reader, critique partner, contest judge, etc.

Depending on the length of the story, I might divide my editing process into more than one area. My content edits start with the plot, but I also include POV choice, internal dialogue, backstory vs. exposition, characterization, opening hook, GMC, pacing, logic lapses, choreography, timelines, character arc, author intrusion, research, independent body parts, setting, world building, creating sexual tension, internal and external conflicts, and foreshadowing in that first review. I add to the notes I've compiled if I'm writing a series.

Next, I focus on more basic craft--active vs. passive, POV, headhopping vs. transitions, POV glitches, showing vs. telling, repeat words, crutch words, misplaced modifiers, varying sentence structure, voice,and using the senses.

Since grammar and punctuation tend to be my strengths, I save those for last, ending my editing on a positive note. I check my g&p list--dialogue punctuation, comma splices, adverbs, adjectives, contractions, fragments, homophones, numbers in writing, using pronouns, punctuation rules, hyphens, and comma usage 1, 2, and 3.

Then again, sometimes I forge headfirst into all of it. There is NO right way! Just get that story ready for your critique partner(s) and/or beta reader(s). I'll talk more about critiquing and beta reading when I move on to career topics in the near future.

No matter what avenue you choose for publication (self-publishing or submitting to an editor or agent), you need to complete at least one more step. Identify the genre. You may also have to write a synopsis. I know what you're thinking--that if you self-pub, you get out of that particular task.

Guess what.

You still need Blurbs and Taglines, which can be just as challenging. We'll delve into those next week!

Mellanie Szereto
Romance...With A Kick!


  1. I have a checklist that I start in when I have finished writing. These include things I add in response to the editors comments each time, particularly coming from a UK writer working for American and Canadian publishers, so making sure I get my Americanism right!

    1. Variations in spellings and slang can be an issue if you're working with a publisher outside your native country. A saying that's common in the UK is often obscure in the US. Those things are harder to catch on your own!

  2. I'm always amazed by how differently a manuscript reads once I'm finished. I think during the first draft everything is so close and so clear in my mind that it's easy for that flavor to get lost in the translation. Great post, Mellanie!

    1. Thanks, Cindy! A little distance can make a lot of those problems pop out at you.:)

  3. I make several passes over my manuscript over a 6-8 month period, ending with a couple of passes where I read the manuscript out loud. It's amazing what I catch when I "hear" it.

    1. I wish I had enough everybody-out-of-the-house time to use that method, Donya. Such is life with a homeschooled teenager...