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Blog by Ron A Case for Self-Editing

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I am going to make a case for self-editing your manuscripts. But I am going to start with a negative.

You Should Not Self-Edit Because

  • likely to self-consciously read it as it was meant not as written
  • You are married to the story and reluctant to change it
  • It is the job of professional editors to edit
  • Professional editors are trained to spot errors

You can see that the main reason for not self-editing is that you as the author will have a blind eye to errors unless you truly focus on finding them. A professional has the training and experience to do this, but you probably don’t have it.

This is a major problem and the primary reason for not editing your own manuscript.

More on the other side of this break.

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Now back to the article.

Self-Editing is Important

Whether you hire an editor or not does not excuse you from doing editing. Is that a contradiction? No. A good writer edits his or her own work religiously!

Some writers go to great lengths to do a good editing job. Nothing wrong with that and if you are able, then do it.

But there is a good chance that you will end up doing your own at least until you are established. A good principle to live by is that self-editing is important to your future success.

That principle applies even if you use a professional. If you are going to hire someone, you want to present a manuscript that is as ready for publishing as you can make it. Then the editor gets her hands on it and takes it to the next level.

A Helpful Tool

As a matter of principle, I recommend that you choose which tools you use. The purpose of this blog and all my blogs is to acquaint you with principles and tools. You are your own boss.

One author I know, her name is Kim, uses what she calls a Map Out. At least that is the name I remember. When I first heard this term recently, I didn’t know what it meant. But she explained it, and so I can say that I use that tool although it is my own version.

As a matter of practice, I create documents that outline the story or the characters or the research or all of the above. Previously I didn’t use this tool, but I now see value in it, so I am in the process of establishing my own Map Out.

Examine your own practice and it is likely that you use a very simple form of the Map Out. You have the choice of keeping as it is or creating an entirely new one. It is helpful tool.

How Often Should I Edit?

That’s easy. As often as you can!

Some authors wait until the book is done before editing. Some want to edit as they write, some at the conclusion of a chapter, and so forth. The point is to have a plan in place that features frequent edits.

I tend to edit after every chapter, but sometimes I will edit at the conclusion of a scene. It varies.

And remember there are different types of edits. You could, for example, do a spell check, a grammar check, story flow, and other types. The types of edits may depend on whether you are writing fiction or nonfiction. Genre can also impact what types of edits to use.

Another tool is Research

If you have read my blogs in the past, then you know that I encourage you to do your diligent research. Some writing projects require a lot of research, some not so much. But even the most basic novel needs some research to establish credibility for the story.

Self-Editing is Rewarding

Bet you didn’t expect that comment!

Yes, self-editing is hard work, especially if you are acting in place of a professional editor. But I have found that self-editing helps me better understand my own work. It helps me spot errors and inconsistencies. In addition, it helps me define the story, the character, and the event.

Self-editing has led me to completely rewrite entire scenes. And when that makes my manuscript better, I have a sense of accomplishment.

Self-Editing May Be Necessary

The truth is that the average writer doesn’t have the wherewithal to hire a professional editor. Professionals can be expensive. So, even though you know you should hire a professional, you can’t afford one. That puts you behind the proverbial eight ball.

In such cases, you will need to double down on the editing. But I have some good news for you.

Self-Editing Does Not Require Perfection

Right about now professional editors are up in arms and shouting at me, “You’re wrong!”

Let me explain.

I love reading books. I have been reading since my childhood. One of the first books I read as a child was War and Peace. I read it and explained it to my father. He then read it and saw my comprehension was very good. But that’s another story, let’s move on to my contention self-editing need not be perfect.

Over the years I have read many books, including master pieces, such as War and Peace. And I confidently can state that I have never read a book that didn’t contain any errors!

Don’t believe me. I challenge you to read some of the greats, but with a critical eye. You will find minor errors and sometimes major ones, but they are there. How can I be sure? Aside from my own reading there is the fact that all authors are humans. And since we are not perfect the likelihood of our works being imperfect are extremely high.

The errors may be as simple as misspelling words, bad grammar, or more serious. They may be the author’s errors or printing errors. The point is that even a professional can and does miss things. To be honest, they generally do an excellent job, but they are not perfect.

What Does it Mean to Me?

It provides you a goal. Basically, your goal is to eliminate as many errors as possible. That is hard work, plus you have the disadvantage of being the author. You are literally forced to divorce yourself from your authorship of the book and focus on it as an independent editor.

I Have More Good News

An Indie author has an advantage over the traditional and so-called self-publisher. Some people use self-publish and Indie publish interchangeably, but they are different. One difference I explain here.

Once you publish your book with a self-publisher, such as AuthorHouse, it is done. They may allow you to edit afterwards, but it is limited. An Indie publisher can edit the manuscript, change the cover, and other things like price, etc. as often as they want. And at no extra cost!

I know, because I have done it and I still do it.

I would recommend to you that you reread your own book every once in a while to see if there are errors or maybe changes you want to make. Then make them.

About the Author


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