Aside from the actual composition of a novel, one of the most daunting aspects comes in finding an editor. Their role is imperative in helping to find the areas that need work before you get it out to an audience. Many writers lack the funding or knowledge in acquiring a professional editor. So, the best alternative for someone experiencing this setback is to self-edit.
Every author should take the time to thoroughly proofread and edit their manuscript before ever handing it over to another person to read. We all make mistakes; and for the writer, bad grammar, punctuation, typos, and spelling mistakes are unjustifiable. Learning to identify not only the grammar, but also plot holes, character development, etc., mimics the same lens of what a professional editor would highlight for the author to fix. These four tips are a great first step towards learning to self-edit.
- Open with Action
Nearly every scene and/or chapter should begin in the midst of the action. Opening a chapter, or starting the story with too much exposition, back story, or scene description can slow the read down. This can cause readers to lose interest before the story even had a chance to capture it. Use openers like tense dialogue or an attention-grabbing line. Zoom into the middle of the conflict and focus on the tense details. Once you’ve gained the reader’s attention you can begin adding the backstory and fillers to set up the next important conflict.
- Character Consistency
It is important that you know your characters inside and out, and to treat them as if they are, in fact, real people. Self-editing your characters should cause you to take a close look at each character’s consistency. Do their emotions seem uncontrolled? Are their reactions inflated and over-the-top? Make sure to take a subtle approach in writing how characters interact and react in the scenes and through major conflicts.
- Grammar Rules
No matter how strong the scenes, plot twists, and characters are in your novel, grammatical errors are a huge deterrent and distract the reader which dilutes the overall strength of the story. The most common mistakes are usually the simple ones: It’s/Its, There/Their/They’re, To/Too. Using the features in Word, or Pro Writing Aid, can help search and find these mistakes so you can check them one by one. Areas that you see patterns of errors should be hyper-edited since there are more than likely many more mistakes in those sections.
- The Adverb No-Nos
Adverbs are an author’s nemesis. They cause writers to get lazy and lessen the opportunity to do good writing. Many writers fall into the temptation to use adverbs to express what/how someone did something. This can cause confusion, or become redundant. For example, “said doubtfully”, “sobbed sadly”, “whispered somberly”, etc. This is another great opportunity to use the search/find feature for all the words ending in “-ly” and trace them all down. Think of alternative ways to capture those moments without using adverbs. This is a great challenge and writing exercise that can help strengthen your overall writing. Not all adverbs have to be removed. Be wise about how and when to use them, and do so sparingly.😉