The Care Keeping Of Your Manuscript: How To (Actually) Edit Your Own Work
Editing your own writing can be weird. Not even necessarily difficult…just…weird. It can also feel ineffective sometimes. I mean, how many times can you read the same page of text before you start just zoning out on it, even with your best efforts to focus .
But we can’t always ask others to edit for us. Sometimes, our work simply isn’t ready for the public eye yet, or no one is available, or we’re in a pinch and need it done now.
So whip out your red pen and your current work in progress, and let’s do some edits!
Start with a read-through
Sit down with your manuscript and take notes, either on the manuscript itself or in a notebook—preferably both. Make any and all notes that occur to you.
Analyze your characters
This is the time to really study the people in your book. Are they consistent? Do they grow? Do they have depth? Are they interesting? Are they complex?
Whatever you want your characters to be, this is the time to figure out how to get them there.
Analyze Story Structure
How are your scenes flowing? Are they all relevant? Are you foreshadowing as needed? Have you accidentally foreshadowed something that no longer happens? Check for consistency, relevance, and adequate detail being provided to your readers.
Make sure your scenes are all contributing somehow, either by moving the story along or revealing information. If you find scenes that are dragging, too short, random, or misplaced, this is the time to fix it.
Edit scene content
This is where you address all the “telling” and make sure you’re “showing”. If your scenes are too…well, I call it “explainy”—and if your scenes are too explainy, your audience will get annoyed. So this is the time to clean it up and use active language, rather than passive narrative.
Edit scene structure and language
How’s your word choice? How are the scenes flowing, not only from one to another, but within themselves? Do you need to rearrange anything, or clarify? Is your language clunky or confusing? Tighten up those words!
And now, the part you’ve been waiting for—proper proofreading! You know what to do here—cross those Ts, dot those Is, and make sure everything’s properly spelled and punctuated. It’s time to unleash your inner Grammar Nazi, so go bananas on your manuscript!
Fun Fact: Even after all this work, your book will still be full of typos. And that’s OK. At least it’s off to a good start, and it’ll be ready for edits and reviews! Here’s where your critique partners will come in handy.
Editing will never exactly be easy, but it can be efficient (and even fun, if you turn it into a drinking game)! Make yourself an action plan based off this list, stock up on coloured pens, and have a blast!