Basic Self-editing Tips
Self-editing can be one of the most difficult things to do when writing a story, novel, or anything really. For me, I love creating the story and watching it unfold. I currently have six or seven stories that have been written, however, they have all stopped at the next stage of writing, the editing stage.
In order to get moving forward on this next stage, it would be a good idea for me to just get started with the editing process. A good way to do that is to implement some basic self-editing techniques. Once I start using these techniques, hopefully, I will continue to edit and move the respective story towards completion.
There are three basic phases of editing, developmental, content, and grammar. Developmental editing consists of fleshing out the story, adding more characters, and bringing in more plot points, if needed. Content editing is all about the pacing, does the content make sense, and does the timeline follow the way it should. Grammar editing is the editing of punctuation, sentence structure and proofreading. The grammar edit should be the last edit once the development and content editing has been completed.
From my experience, here are some basic editing techniques that I have learned. Word choice is extremely important and key to a good book. Limit the repetitive words used, not only in a single paragraph, but also in the rest of the story. When I edited my first published novel, Skipping Stones, I discovered that I had originally used certain words (in this case giggled, smiled, and adorned) way too often. I had to go through the novel and find all the areas in which I repeated the same word and adjust accordingly.
Using action verbs instead of passive verbs is a great way to “show and not tell” the reader what is occurring within the story. The action propels the story forward rather than stagnates it. Another common technique is to avoid using adverbs to tell the story. Using adverbs that end in ly often also “tell” rather than “show” what is going on. It is better to be descriptive but with action words.
I think one of the editing techniques that helped me out the most is to read the story aloud. It’s amazing what I picked up while hearing the words being read instead of just reading it. Our minds sometimes will just read over something and skip over certain words without us even realizing it.
I edited Skipping Stones approximately thirty times, which may seem excessive, and probably was. However, I did learn a lot about editing and have already noticed that as I write now, the editing is not needed as intensely. It is necessary, though, to read through your novel as many times as you think it needs. That is also the challenge, realizing and accepting when it is completed.
Once you feel like you have gotten to a point in which you have completed your initial self-edits, it is extremely important to get feedback from others. I have beta readers that I send my writings too, receive feedback, and then adjust edits based on their notes. In addition, once I complete a round or two of edits after the beta readers, I then send my story to a professional editor. I then make more adjustments based on what the professional editor has to say.
Even though I get feedback from beta readers and professional editors, at the core of the process is still the self-edit. I must review the feedback and adjust the story accordingly. The decision of what to change and what not to change still lies solely with me.
The self-editing process can be daunting for sure, yet it is necessary in order to create quality writings that I am proud of and would like to share with others.
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