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Tips for Self-Editing Your Novel

Self-editing is the hardest part of the novel-writing process for most of us, but it's one you can't afford to skip if you want to become a successful author. Your self-edits transform the messy first draft into something beta readers will actually enjoy. They'll also make things much easier for your professional editors. If your self-edits involve deleting a lot of words, you'll also save a lot of money, since most editors charge by the word.

Feeling intimidated? Here are some tips to help you get through self-editing your first novel:

  • Read it in a new way - To edit properly, you need to create distance between yourself and the drafting process. One of the best ways to do this is to read your book in a new way, either on an e-reader or as a printed copy. Many authors also like to edit in a different space from where they write.

  • Focus on the big stuff first - We talked a little about this in January when we discussed questions for your first editing pass, but it's worth reiterating. Fix major plot holes and character issues before worrying about sentence structure; you don't want to spend hours on a sentence only to delete it later.

  • Take your time - One of the biggest mistakes writers make is rushing through edits in their eagerness to get a story out the door. When you hurry, you risk missing things. Some of those things even seem obvious when a beta reader, or worse, a reviewer, points them out.

Final advice

This is a great start to developing your own editing process, but it's only the beginning. If you want an in-depth guide on how to edit your novel we strongly recommend Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print.

Dianna Gunn is the author of the fantasy novel “Moonshadow's Guardian” and the Write Plan content writer. She also blogs about creativity, life and books at The Dabbler.


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