I'm DELIGHTED to welcome a special guest to the blog today with some SOLID advice on why editing before seeking feedback is so important, along with some tips on how exactly you can do this efficiently and effectively.
Jamie Evans is a freelance fiction editor who loves helping writers develop their craft and prepare their stories for that next step. Previously the in-house editor for a boutique literary agency, Jamie has worked with New York Times bestselling authors and offers a friendly approach to editing.
In her spare time, Jamie enjoys writing, reading, taking hikes with her husband and their dog, and baking banana bread.
The Importance of Self-Editing Your Novel: 3 Tips
Once you’ve finished writing your manuscript, you may be excited to send it out to critique partners for a fresh look. You’re probably looking forward to getting the feedback you’ve wanted since you started the first chapter, or getting questions answered about plot, character development, and more.
But there’s an important step before all of this takes place that you can’t skip. Regardless of the stage at which you currently find yourself—writing your first novel, publishing your third book, or anywhere in between and beyond—you need to self-edit.
What is self-editing?
Self-editing is what it sounds like: it’s the process of editing and polishing your words. You can clean up your sentences, spot typos, and make sure the story flows the way you want it to.
Self-editing does not replace the need for an outside reader, but it’s an essential step to take before sending your piece to that outside reader. This is your golden chance to go back and revise or expand.
By giving your reader or editor a cleaner and more organized version of your book, they’ll have more time to focus on bigger elements and spend less time navigating their way through smaller (but distracting) errors. When you send in a more polished product, it’ll not only reflect well on you, but also help make your story better.
So, how can you successfully self-edit your novel? In this post, I offer three important tips:
1. Take a break.
Taking a break may seem counterintuitive. After all, you’ve been looking forward to querying this manuscript since Day One, or self-publishing it by the holidays. However, taking a break from your manuscript is the number one step to ensuring you come back to it with a fresh perspective.
Here’s how you can structure your break:
Aside from coming back to your manuscript feeling refreshed, you’ll be amazed at what you spot with a fresh look. Be sure to take the needed time away so you can return to your story ready to work!
2. Read your novel on a different device.
After you’ve done your first read-through following your break, wait a few more days and then find another device you can use to read your manuscript. This could be a Kindle, iPad, or other tablet. Or, if you’re so inclined, print it out—though this won’t be as environmentally friendly!
You’ll be amazed at what you spot. Just switching up the way in which you read your manuscript will help you find errors or awkward wording, and can even help you approach your storyline from an entirely new direction.
Take a break from Word or Scrivener (both of which are wonderful tools, to say the least), and use a new lens to read your words. From there, you’ll be on your way to polishing your work as best you can.
3. Read your story aloud to yourself.
This last step may seem a bit odd, but going through your piece and reading it aloud to yourself can make a huge difference in the quality of the story. (Make sure you have a few extra hours and some water handy!)
By reading your work aloud to yourself, you can:
Though this step takes a more technical approach to your writing, it’s a great way to clean up the text itself and spot errors you may not have otherwise found. After all, if your work doesn’t sound the way you want it to, that’s an indication that it won’t sound right to your readers, either.
Don’t send your very first draft to a critique partner or professional editor. While having a new, fresh set of eyes on your finished manuscript is essential, giving your reader a more polished piece will help make the most of their time (and yours). Good luck!
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