Self-Editing Basics: Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Self-editing a book is hard. You completed the manuscript by investing your time and energy for months and you may not really feel like striking off sentences or paragraphs. But you have to admit that even your completed manuscript is unpolished. Editing makes it a finer product. Whether you go for self-publishing or traditional publishing, self-editing is always recommended before submitting it to your publisher.

Self-Editing Basics: Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book

Here are the 7 steps that you need to go through to successfully complete this process.

  1. Take a break from your book :That finished manuscript is your brain and emotional child. You may not feel like striking out sentences because you have put your time, effort and energy into it for months. That’s why it is necessary to detach yourself from the book for a few weeks. Yes, it is really tempting to thrust your book into the hands of a publisher to get it published, but don’t do it. Clear your head off the story and come back.
  2. Recap the main plot/purpose of your story: This may sound absurd, because you may think that since you wrote the manuscript, you definitely know it. We are sure that you know the plot but you still need to recapture the outline of your story, especially if your story is above 50000-60000 words. Write down the plot in a separate file. It is going to come in handy.
  3. Catchy beginnings : Regardless of the genre of your book, you need your readers to be hooked on the story from the very first chapter. The first chapter is like the pilot episode of a television series. This is where your audience decides whether to continue or not. Make sure that you add mystery to the first chapter. The readers should be asking why. Why does the protagonist be in such a dilemma? Why does that co-passenger act in a weird way?
  4. Delete digressions : Have you heard of Chekhov’s gun? Anton Chekhov, the famous playwright, once said, “If in Act One you have a pistol hanging on the wall, then it must fire in the last act.” That is, every incident, every object, and every character must have significance in the overall narrative. If it doesn’t, we call it digression. When you are writing a long story, it is natural to get digressed. It could be unwanted backstories, useless conversations between the characters (you may have included them so that the readers could know how intelligent the character is, but it is still useless if it doesn’t contribute to the story), or unnecessary characters. You definitely need a lot of characters in a narrative (unless it is an apocalyptic one), but if they are not important, make sure that you mention their name and move on.
  5. Remove redundancy in language : Beware of adjectives! Adjectives are a great way to convey an image to the reader but if not used carefully, they may become redundant, making your narrative boring.  For example, John screamed loudly. When someone screams, it is obvious that the voice will be loud. John screamed. Better and precise, right?
  6. Show, don’t tell : A good writer will be able to show the reader and make them feel the content, instead of simply telling them. For example, Anne began to talk about James. It was painful for her to talk about her ex. Instead, Anne began to talk about James. She wondered where to begin. Even after she found the right words to talk about her ex, a lump in her throat seemed to block her voice from coming out. Clearing her throat, she tried to prevent tears from forming in her eyes by taking a few deep breaths. Well, can you now feel the pain of Anne?
  7. Spelling and grammar : This is an obvious step of editing, only to be undertaken after you are completely satisfied with the story of your manuscript. Google Docs and AI apps like Grammarly are a great help nowadays. But you still need to use your discretion while considering the recommendations. Getting rid of typos and basic grammatical errors by yourself will help your editor to polish your work further.


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