Like many educated professionals turned writers, I initially thought self-editing was all I needed. I have several University degrees; I don’t need an editor. Feel free to imagine the stomping foot. As with many, many ideas I initially had about self-publishing, I was wrong. Let me just repeat that. I. Was. Wrong. So now that I have a regular editor, I don’t need to self-edit, right? Wrong. Oh my gosh, so wrong. Don’t mistake me. My editor is awesome. But she’s only one person and she’s focused (rightly so!) on the grammatical and spelling mistakes. There’s are many, many other ‘errors’ to be edited out of a manuscript before publishing.
How do I self-edit? I spend a week after finishing a first draft self-editing before sending the manuscript to my editor. While the manuscript is at the editor, I don’t look at it. Not at all. Nope. Not even a little bit. When I have the edited version back, I’ll go through it for another week before declaring myself finished. Of course, I could spend a lot more time than this, but this is what works for me. You can get bogged down trying to make every single sentence perfect or you can actually publish your book. I chose to publish.
What do I look for while I’m self-editing?
Passive voice. I’m not saying that the passive voice is always wrong. Nothing is always wrong. But the passive voice can often be confusing and it slows down the action. I write in first person, which means the passive voice sounds convoluted. Grammatically, there’s nothing wrong with the passive voice, though, so it’s up to me and not my editor to get rid of that pesky passive voice.
Repeat of words. I’m really good at not repeating important words and phrases. My husband noted that I don’t repeat any of the crazy non-swear words that Anna uses in my new book, Bring Your Own Baker. That may be, but I do have certain somewhat inconsequential words that I repeat way too often. My personal nemeses are but, just and so. When self-editing, I highlight these words and then go through each and every instance. Do I really need the word? Is but the appropriate conjunction? Etc.
Correct verb tense. I hate, hate, hate when verb tense is messed up in a book. Unfortunately, it’s super easy to do. I write in first person, present tense. When I’m into the story, I hardly ever confuse verb tense. It’s when I’m struggling with a scene that it happens.
Timing. Who knew what when? I’m currently writing a series of cozy mysteries (the Death by Cupcake series) and it’s essential that information be parceled out in a certain manner to keep the villain secret until the big reveal. It’s important for other fiction to use correct timing as well. Nothing will make me throw the Kindle faster than characters being introduced to each other even though they met at a bar three chapters ago! (To be fair: a lot of things make me want to throw my Kindle.)
How do you self-edit?