Ahh, yes, the #writerslife.
Waking up to birds chirping outside. Dust motes shining in the streams of sunlight from the window. I stretch, make coffee, and sit down in front of a perfectly functioning laptop in front of a beautiful vista ready to create the next bestseller to hit the market.
I can almost hear my future-self yelling back through time, telling me to hire a REAL editor! But, alas, like many writers early in their career, a good-quality professional editor is simply not in my budget.
And there my adventure begins.
Finally, after years of hem-hawing around, I embraced my love, passion, and never-ending devotion to writing and have jumped off the deep end with no plan B.
But, oh, the self-editing… thankfully I have a large stock of pods for my coffee machine.
To any new, aspiring writers: do yourself the favor, save up enough funds to hire a quality editor. Don’t take me wrong, I think every writer should self-edit for the simple stuff we miss – grammar, spelling, the basics. Clean up your own writing and it will save your editor time, work, (and in the long run, probably save you money!)
As the writer, I am so close to and familiar with my own work that it becomes difficult to see the errors. To the extent that I have picked up books and online courses about self-editing simply to get the checklists, tips, tricks, and advice of other writers who have been here.
Here are a few things I’ve learned in my adventure, maybe it can help others:
Read backward. Yep, sounds crazy, but read your manuscript backward, one sentence at a time. Why? This prevents you from getting carried away by the story, and because your brain isn’t “familiar” with your writing (at least not in this order) it is MUCH easier to proofread and find those grammar, punctuation, and misused (but properly spelled) words.
Get a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, or my personal favorite, Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Read it. Refer to it. Keep it close at all times.
Don’t edit out your own voice and style!
Read one chapter/scene at a time, and jot down what beats happen in a sort of rough timeline. After you do this for the entire manuscript, it’s much easier to see if there are any gaping holes in your story.
When in doubt, or just to get another set of “eyes” on your writing – use software like Grammarly. It helps, it really does.
Check your distances. Oye… this was one that gave me problems in my first draft! 😯 In one section a person could go from point A to point B in a couple hours, in another, it took an entire day. Make sure you have your worldbuilding tight. Draw your own maps, and include rough travel times if travel is something that happens a lot in your book. You don’t have to be a great artist, and this can save you some editing headaches later on.
Listen to your characters “speak” in your dialogue sequences. Does each character have their own voice? Don’t you think they should?
There are tons more that I’ve not covered here – of that I’m quite sure. I’m a doctor, not a brick-layer! Or in this instance, I’m a writer, not a professional editor! But I hope this can help others who may be doing a lot of self-editing.
It’s still not in my budget, being at the beginning of my writing career. But I can tell you this… it WILL be in my budget for my upcoming books! 🙂
On that note though, I want to finish my tale of caffeinated-woe by sending out a heartfelt and eternally grateful “thank you” to my beta readers — I could not have done this without you!