Self-Edit Your Writing

Here are some thoughts on self-editing your own work from Jason Pegler of mental-health publisher Chipmunka Publishing.

The Basic Principles of Self-Editing

1. Follow a plan for your story. Make sure you understand where each piece you write fits into the narrative and conveys the part of the story it’s intended for.

2. Have a beginning, middle, and end to the story. There are hundreds of online guides than can help you define each one.

3. Keep the story simple. At least to begin with, until you develop as a writer. This will make it far easier to make changes as the work develops. Definitely keep the grammar simple.

4. Be consistent. Try to write in a style you are comfortable with and be sure to follow that style when editing.

5. Ask the following questions at each stage of the book:

a. What does this part of the book convey?
b. Is that the message I want to convey?
c. Is there a better way of getting the message across?

6. Trim out the fat. Look for unnecessary information, wordiness, bulkiness, or unrealistic dialogue. Find it and either find a better way of conveying the information or cut it out.

7. Read out loud. It’s the most simple of skills, but you will quickly hone in on awkward passages, inconsistencies, and unrealistic dialogue. Where possible replace with more natural conversational prose, which makes for easier reading.

8. Walk away from the work before editing. This will allow you to gain a fresh perspective on the best ways to improve the text.

9. Make lots of passes on the text. Keep editing and re-editing. It’s unlikely that the writer will ever edit together his own work perfectly; but the more often you edit, the better your grip of the material will become.

10. Use a peer group of readers. This will give you an external opinion on the content and allow you to hone it accordingly. Remember their criticism is only opinion; so don’t take it as gospel.  But if you hear the same point raised a number of times, then you may have found an issue that needs mending.

11. Find a trusted editor. This ideally is someone who can help you pull together the book and who understands what you are trying to achieve and has the knowledge and skills to make your work better.

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