5 Ways to Edit Your Own Writing Like a Pro

By on Apr 11, 2017 in Publishing

Writing is a process that is uplifting, fulfilling and is what the writer loves to do. Or at least, that’s the way it should be. However, once the writing of the initial draft is done, the next step is to edit it. And yes, this is true even if you’re not self-publishing your book and have an editor at a publishing house at hand. Keep in mind that the better manuscript you provide the more control you will have over the final draft. Editing your own work is the hardest thing for a writer – if you’re overconfident, you will miss crucial mistakes, and if you’re convinced your work is bad…let’s not even go there. There are a few key things to remember to do in order to successfully edit your own work.

1. Put it in the drawer

Let it rest for a couple of weeks. Go out, talk to people, see something else than your laptop screen for a while. Give yourself some space to forget what your book was about, so that when you get back to it, you will be able to see how it is written. Take as much time away as you need – remember, even if you’re in a rush, you need that time to make sure that the end result is as perfect as you can make it. Afterwards, when you cannot remember every single detail of your manuscript, start editing.

2. Forget it’s yours

When you start proofreading your work, in order to keep yourself from breaking down, forget it is yours. Go into it as a reader, or a strict editor, and do your best to see it objectively. Remember that you are doing this to make it better – not to kill it. A clear head without emotions will help you edit your manuscript better and go through with it without losing faith in yourself as a writer. Remember, everything that seems bad can be fixed. No one has ever written the best manuscript on the first try.

3. Print it out

Print out your manuscript before doing any editing. After that, make sure to read it twice. The first time you read it, consider it a unit and do not make any changes, but write down the things you think are not good enough and the things you think you might want to change, without actually rewriting anything. The second time you read it, take your red pen and start making the changes you’ve noted down earlier in the printed manuscript. It’s funny how most of us will notice grammar and spelling mistakes when we see them printed out, instead of seeing them on a laptop screen.

4. Know your weaknesses

You are the only one who knows best which words and phrases you use the most. Make a list of them, and see how many times you’ve used them in your writing. Keep your eyes open for new words and cliché phrases that have made their way into your writing without you realizing it, and cut them down. Delete them, change them, and make sure that you’re not coming off as repetitive in your writing.

5. Show no mercy and follow your instinct

If some things, characters, and events seemed like a good idea when you wrote them, but don’t feel right anymore, don’t be afraid to delete them. Be honest with yourself. If it’s not good, it needs to be erased or rewritten. If the sentence is too long and incomprehensible, break it down in smaller sentences. If the end result only seems right, but doesn’t feel that way, listen to your instinct and change it or delete it.

Editor’s Note: This article was first published on e-Books India (the former name of Writing Tips Oasis) in January 2015.

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As a 22-year-old art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.