October 2, 2020

A Look at Self-Editing

As a writer, I have this ingrained love of all things words. The pen is mightier than the sword, you know. And I love cliches, but that's a topic for another post. :)

Words are such an important mode of communication that it's crucial to use them in a way conducive to your audience's understanding. You're not going to use five-dollar words (there I go again) when speaking to a child (unless they happen to be a genius...), are you?

A writer writes. An editor edits. And, yes, there is some (a lot of) overlap. After the (dreaded) first draft is complete, the real "fun" begins. Not every writer enjoys the editing process. I admit it can be challenging to edit your own work. You knew what you wanted to say even if the words didn't come out that way. (The rhyme was so unintentional. I haven't written an actual blog post in soooo long.) A thorough self-edit is a must-have. I completed a two-year Editing Certificate in 2018 just to improve my own writing / self-editing process. I discovered I loved editing. I really do. There's something so satisfying about it. Learning about editing and, in conjunction, proper writing, really helped me. I think the language arts / English courses I took in school missed some important grammar lessons. I immediately took it upon myself to teach my sons some of what I learned. I bet they're the only kids in their classes who use semi-colons (properly).

Before I submitted A Wizard's Choice, Book 2 of The Magicals Series, for publication, I put my newfound knowledge to good use. I think it improved the editing process, and I'm sure my editor would agree. (Ironically, I adopt informal language in my blog posts.) I recently submitted Book 3 to my publisher... I'm still on pins and needles about its acceptance. << Fingers crossed >> Before I pressed "send" I put my book through my newly documented self-editing paces.

I let my book sit for at least a week before I begin self-editing.

Step One: Make an outline of the completed book

I write an outline as the book progresses, tracking chapter content and word count, so I can simply update this outline. Then I review the outline against the plotting tool(s) I used. In the case of Book 3, I used the Plot Rollercoaster, The Save the Cat! Beat Sheet, and The Three-Act Structure. Overkill? Perhaps. I definitely prepped more for Book 3 than any of my preceding books. Comparing an outline to a plot tool ensures the chapters are in the right order, and the plot unfolds in a logical way.

Step Two: Smooth and improve language

In this step, I complete another read-through to tighten up my writing. Eliminate unnecessary (filler) words. Identify, then avoid, common crutches (for instance "ly" words, overused words, was/were, passive tone). Show, don't tell. I have a reference list of commonly overused words—I included an excerpt below—and I use the "search in document" function to check when I've used these words so I can switch them out.









Began to

Step Three: Line by line check for writing mechanics and consistency

During this read-through, I ensure my writing complies with writing mechanics—the language rules—checking for grammar, spelling, punctuation, and consistency. There is a right and wrong answer in writing mechanics, unless an exception, a stylistic decision, is implemented. Choosing a specific style guide or using a style sheet to record your choices (for instance an unusual spelling of a character's name) helps with consistency.

Every author has their own approach to self-editing. A thorough self-edit is not a replacement for a professional editor. An objective pair of eyes will find errors in, and ways to improve, the manuscript that the author may overlook. Even multiple pairs of eyes may miss a mistake so be kind if you happen to find an error in a professionally edited, published book.

Authors, what's your self-editing process?

Readers, what's the most cringeworthy editing oops you've spotted in a published book?

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