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March 2, 2023

If there's anything in the name which dread rises in every writer's face, it would be this process called editing. Editing for most people comes after the drafting phase, and the reason why it is such a nightmare for all of us writers is that it means going back to your hard-written draft and looking at everything that is wrong with that draft, and then fixing it. 

It gets even worse when your draft is so messy that you have to rewrite the whole thing repeatedly, and suddenly the hard work you had put together to produce this final draft now seems to go in vain. Suddenly you start questioning the whole existence of your novel, and honestly, that feeling is far from anything fun.

However, no matter how much we hate this process, we can't skip it. Editing is an essential part of writing. Especially in the initial stages of your drafting phase, which mostly are poorly written and need editing so that your readers can fully appreciate and understand. What's the point of writing a novel when you can't even convey your messages, right?

You may think, for that matter, that editing shouldn't be your concern because you can easily just hire an editor, so why should you even consider self-editing your own writing? This may come as a surprise to some of you, but most publishing agencies and editors refuse to cooperate with your book because of the messy drafting and the lack of editing in your book. 

Because of this, many potentially good stories end up getting rejected by the editors and the publishers because editing a very untidy draft definitely takes a lot of effort, money, expertise, and time that they can't afford to lose on just one book.

Many editors also ask for high wages in return for their services if the writing project is unedited and messy. Unfortunately, many authors, especially self-published and debut writers, can't afford it. Therefore, it's always wise for writers to learn how to self-edit their works before sending them off to their agents or any publishing company.

Mastering Self-Editing: 9 Essential Tips for Improving Your Writing

1. Sleep on it -

Say you are done with your first draft, and now you think that the next best step would be to edit it. Well, that's a correct answer to think of editing as the next step, but when you are just done writing the book and go back to it to edit it, you won't make many changes. Your brain won't be quick to highlight and alter any mistakes that require changes. This way, you won't be efficient in critiquing your story effectively, and all the effort will go in vain. The best way to start editing is to give yourself some time away from the project you've just finished.

In that period when you're not immediately editing your book, you can pick up another writing project and work on it for the time being. Then sleep on it for at least six months so that after when you come back to it for editing, you can see your own writing through a relatively objective point of view by fooling your brain into thinking that you're reading your story for the very first time. This way, when you self-edit your writing, you can quickly figure out all of the problematic areas that you need to fix.

2. Recite and Replay -

When you come back to your work-in-progress novel to start editing it, the best editing technique that you can apply right out of the gate, especially if you are feeling intimidated by all the areas that you need to fix in your novel, should be to recite and replay where all you have to do is to read your entire book out loud as if you're narrating it to someone and mark or underline all the places where you think that work needs to be done.

You can also make a separate flowchart for all the chronological occurrences of events in your story and make notes and self-reminders for yourself to get back to and improve upon. This step would help you see your book from your readers' eyes and how it would read to them if they were to read it for the first time. 

Not only this, but from following this advice, you would get a bigger picture of your story that you would typically not have noticed when you're writing the book or when you're editing the more intricate parts of the novel. 

So, for instance, you can know if your plot is slowing you down as you read it, then, in that case, you can take care of the pacing of the story. Or you can understand if the overarching message that you've been meaning to convey through your novel is clear and understandable as you recite it loudly.

3. Developmental Editing -

Developmental editing is the call to action that the recite and replay had prepared you for. So, after you're done reading your entire rough draft and have made enough mind maps and notes to think that you can finally get started with editing, developmental editing will help you focus on the bigger picture of the story that you've been writing. 

For instance, if the book you're writing is a best friend to lover's romance, developmental editing will mainly focus on how the initially friend-zoned all-platonically friendship slowly transitions from a state of perpetual awkwardness to a sweet, cozy romance that anyone can get simp quickly over. Should there be any error or inconsistency in the slow progress of the love story, you would find it easily through developmental editing of your fabrication.

4. 4P's of Editing - People, Plot, Pacing, and Prose

To go all-in, the 4P's of editing is the best editing technique that structurally solves each segment of the novel with care and fixes it with utmost systematic smartness, without spoiling your focus from getting caught in distractions of improving everything at the same time.

A. People -

Characters are the heart of the story, and so if you want to write an unforgettable novel that pleases most people, if not all, the best way to slay your editing is through character-driven stories. Here is when you have to make sure that your characters are consistent and authentic to their personality and three-dimensionally well-rounded. 

If your characters turn out to be a shift in direction and one-dimensional, your readers will find it hard to relate to them, should your characters turn out to be the punching bags of things that keep happening to them. So instead, give them the motive to move forward and allow them to transform as the story concludes itself.

B. Plot -

The next element of editing in your own writing that you must focus on is the plot. Now, when you've created characters that will have their own unique versions of the story to tell, you can choose the path of the plot that suits well with your account. This way, both the characters and the plot complement each other. 

While focusing on the plot, your immediate attention should be on the chronological order of the events that are placed in your story and whether each of these stories predicts the next event with inevitability or if there's any tension that keeps the reader turning from page to page.

C. Pacing -

If a story reads too slowly that the person reading it feels dead from boredom or if your story reads so fast that the events happening in it will seem unrealistically rushed, adding no emphatic value to your writing, then you might want to focus on this part of the editing a bit more. 

Many people don't focus on the pacing and lose their readers' interest. Say your writing's pacing feels slow and like it might bore people off, in which case you can cut down a few unnecessary details out of your descriptive paragraphs. 

In another case, if your story feels too rushed, you might want to slow it down with descriptions and character-specific story developments that are relevant to the story.

D. Prose -

Prose editing can also be understood as line editing where you just focus on the grammar structure and spelling. This one is mainly done at the very end of the entirety of developmental editing to run a typo check and see if all that you've written is clear and understandable. 

In this portion, you should also try to make sure and alter the tone of the words you are using based on what the story you are writing is trying to convey.

5. Kill Your Darlings -

Kill your Darlings is an infamous phrase used frequently by writers and everyone in the writing community. What it means is that while writing, most writers end up including many characters and scenes that they don't really need for their story. These characters and settings don't add any value to the story, nor do they help advance the said plot. 

Therefore, it is considered best to delete all the scenes and characters, or rather, kill one's darlings so that all that remains to be read is just what is relevant to the story and the characters, and doesn't distract the central theme of your writing from running off-topic.

6 Fact-Checking -

Researching is one of the most essential parts of writing and while research work mainly resorts to the initial stages of your drafting the story, it is crucial to go back to it and have another set of eyes look at the research you've done to avoid any sort of false information included in your story. Many writers thus hire beta-readers or research assistants to fact-check before the final editing.

7. Rewriting -

Should you ever consider rewriting your story from scratch while editing it? Well, there are times when you don't have a choice because your story is very messy and lacks structure, which is when you might prefer rewriting the whole thing from scratch. 

However, many times while editing, one may come across one too many plot holes that they struggle to cover up and it is in that case that you might turn back to rewriting that particular scene or plot point. 

Rewriting can also help you better your first draft into a finer quality before you finally start editing and might even give you a new perspective to look your book at.

8. Beta Readers -

There are times when you would want a second opinion from an outsider because you can't always trust yourself on giving yourself constructive feedback about your own book. Needless to say, if it's your own writing, there will be some bias involved. Some people might critique every single little thing of their book, thinking that it is not good enough just yet while some people might not spot their mistakes, as many don't. 

At that point, the best editing hack to resort to is to ask beta readers to read your writing. Beta-readers are like any other readers but they specialize mostly in putting forward a reader's point of view as fairly objectively as possible. They can suggest changes for example in the pacing, or any inconsistencies in the story structure, or can inform you about the knowledge of plot holes that you are likely to ignore or overlook. 

Beta-readers can also help you fact-check the research work you've included in your book. Make sure that when you are looking for beta readers that they are someone you can trust your writing with and someone you know who will help you and be the better critique.

9. Software Services -

While for some people it is easier to afford editing services and paid editors that offer grammar and spell checks as well as other information like if any of the research you've included in your writing is plagiarised or not, and whether the pacing is too slow or too fast. 

However, there are still many writers that don't share this luxury, so for them, it is easier to resort to software for writers that provide editing services. 

For instance, there are a few editing services that are free of cost like Grammarly, Google Docs and After the Deadline but if you want to try something that offers much more freedom in the editing field then Scrivener, Hemingway Editor, WordRake, and Vellum are some of the best-known editing software that writers across the globe use to edit their books before they publish it.

In conclusion, editing may seem like a daunting task for every writer, but it's a necessary process to refine and improve their work. Hiring an editor may not always be a viable option, especially for new and self-published authors. Thus, learning how to self-edit is crucial. By following the above tips, you can improve your writing, make your work stand out, and increase your chances of getting published.

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