Saturday, March 23, 2019

Self-Editing (minus the primeval scream) by Connie Vines

This month's Round Robin Topic:  How do I self-edit my books before submitting or publishing? 

Self-editing is painful.  Every writer I  know fights the urge to 'self-edit' while creating the first draft of his/her novel.  Remember the cartoons you watched as a child (or perhaps still watch.  I'm not judgmental) where the hero has a devil sitting on one shoulder and the angel on his other?  Both were whispering in his ear.  Your hero is overcome with confusion and self-doubt, uncertain of what to do next.

Well, that is a large part of the writing process--learning to ignore the self-editing instructions that are always at the back of your mind.

When a I type THE END, I breath a sigh of relief.
For a few minutes, perhaps even several hours, I'm thinking about my next project.

Then reality sets in (hence the mention of a primeval shout) how many times did I write the word 'that'?  I read a book once where every chapter started with a description of the weather.  I didn't tie-up that loose-end.

I believe I must self-edit before sending my novel to a beta reader.

If you’re ready to self-edit your book, consider these 10 tips:

1. Rest your manuscript

When you’ve finished typing the last word of your masterpiece, set it aside for a few days.  In On Writing, Stephen King relates that he places his finished drafts in a drawer for at least six weeks before looking at them again.

Why rest your manuscript?  When you do come back to self-edit, the book almost seems as if someone else wrote it.

2. Listen to your manuscript

Hearing your words spoken makes mistakes glaringly obvious.

If you’re a Mac user, click the Apple logo at the top left of your screen, select System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Speech. Choose a System Voice and Speaking Rate you can tolerate, then select “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.”

Once you’ve enabled your preferred shortcut key, simply highlight any text (within any program) that you want to hear read aloud. Then hit your shortcut keys and follow your words on-screen as your computer reads them aloud.

For PC users, make use of Narrator, part of the system’s Ease of Access Center. Press “Windows+U” and click “Start Narrator.” Since the program is intended for blind users, it will automatically begin to read any text your mouse encounters. To turn this off, hit “Control.” To have Narrator read a paragraph, place your cursor at its beginning and type “Caps Lock + I.” To have Narrator read an entire page, press “Caps Lock + U.”

Or make use of a recording app on your iPhone.  I think in chapters of three when writing.  So, I will read my novel three chapter at a time. Often, I catch the mistakes when reading.  Pause, make a note, and then go on reading.

3. Search for troubling words

I am a fan of Grammar Girl podcasts.
To help you consider what your troubling words might be, here’s a good starting list, excerpted from the first chapter of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing:

a lot/alot
into/in to

4. Remove or replace your crutch words

Outside of necessary articles and prepositions, you may be surprised at what words you tend to use over and over.

5. Remove all double spaces at the end of sentences

If tapping two spaces following your sentences is an age-old habit ingrained into you.

Conduct a find-and-replace search after you’re done writing. In Word, type two spaces in “find” and one space in “replace” and hit enter. Voila!

6. Run spell check or use an automated editing program

8. Purchase The Chicago Manual of Style.

 You can subscribe to the online version for $35 a year.  I prefer the the hardbound copy.

9. Set aside an hour or two to go through this list with your manuscript, but be careful about over-editing.

10.  Send it off to your beta reader/plotting partner.  Remember to reward your reader with a gift card.

Happy Reading and Writing,


Stop by and see what the other Round Robin members have to say about the "torments" of  self-editing:

Rhobin L Courtright

See my website for this giveaway

My Motto


  1. Good advice, Connie, with a great list of editing hints. I find homonyms a problem. I make many wording errors.

  2. What an awesome list of things to check. I'm going to print this one out and save it. Thanks too, for the instructions on "listening" to your book. I have a Mac and had no idea this was an option. Can't wait to try it.

  3. Same here with the Mac. I have used voice to text but not text to voice. Love this blog for the things we learn!

  4. Hi Connie, like others I had no idea my PC could offer this service. Currently nursing another sore throat, it sounds really attractive. Much agreement this month over issues like putting the MS out of sight and over-used words. anne

  5. Great post, Connie. You gave a great editing check-list, which I too am going to print oout, particularly how to use the Narrative on my PC.
    Thank you.

  6. Connie, we have a good overlap of suggested techniques for catching errors.

    Only, I am one of those nonexistent writers who edits while writing.


  7. Exellent. suggestions, especially to leave the manuscript alone for a period of time such that you'll be able to see it with fresh eyes. I didn't know a Mac could read your book back to you. Great idea to do key passages. Agree. Chicago Manual of Style is a great book for writers. Very information post!


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