5 tips for Self-Editing

Updated: Aug 19, 2020

Do you really need to edit your work? The quick (and only) answer is YES. You sure do. If you’ve just completed your manuscript, first of all, congratulations! But you’re not quite done–yet. Before you take the next step, it’s essential to take the time and self-edit. That’s right. YOU edit your own work before handing it off to a professional editor. (And yes, self-editing and hiring a pro are both necessary). Your writing is a reflection of you, so it’s crucial that you take the time and make sure it’s the best it can be before sending it to an editor. It may seem overwhelming, but you’ve already done the hard part: you’ve finished writing! Now, it’s time to buckle down and get started on your self-editing journey. With these tools and tricks, you (and your writing) will be good to go in no time.

Leave it Alone.

That’s right–your book baby needs its space, too. After you’ve completed writing your manuscript, give yourself at least a week from looking at it. You know that all-too-familiar feeling of being hopelessly trapped in writer’s block or when you’ve stared at the same sentence for over an hour and you’re like, what are words? Well, the same goes for editing. You need to give your eyes a break from reading the same words over and over again. Take some time, maybe read a couple of other books in the interim, and most importantly, allow yourself to just breathe. You’ll thank yourself later!

Read it Aloud.

Yes, the whole thing. I cannot stress enough how important this step is! When you read your work out loud, you catch those little mishaps you may have otherwise overlooked. For example, whenever I read an email out loud to myself before sending it to a client and I find myself stumbling on a word, I know I need to rewrite that part. If you stumble when reading your words out loud, your reader will stumble while reading to themselves. This is especially important with dialogue. It may sound awkward at first (especially if you’re imitating your characters using different voices), but this will show you where to cut down on wordiness, omit details, and clarify where needed.

Cut. It. Out.

Less is always more. Remember when you read your dear words aloud to yourself? Did it feel like you used a particular phrase or word a tad too many times? That’s probably because you did. Redundancy and repetition are surefire ways to lose your reader’s attention. A cool trick we like to use with our writing is the ol’ Command (or Control) F tool. This will show you just how many times you used the word “hungry,” for example (Can you tell I’m starving?). Also, Thesaurus.com is your friend, possibly your best friend when writing. Stephen King once tweeted, “Note to writers: "Amazing" is very tired. "Amazing" needs a long vacation…” Certain words (such as “amazing”, good, other, etc.) are extremely overused, and there are much better words you can replace them with! Remember: The thesaurus is your friend, and it’s there to help.


No matter where you’ve written your book–Google docs, MS Word, or Scrivener, there are some awesome tools out there to help you self-edit. One of our favorites is Grammarly–it’s a FREE proofreading tool that you can install as a plug-in on your browser. This will help you fix those pesky spelling errors whether you’re writing a blog post or working on your manuscript. ProWritingAid is another excellent software to help you spot things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Also, SpellCheck! Please! This is such a simple tool you can use that will address and correct any lingering grammatical errors you may have. Always, always, ALWAYS use spell check and/or Grammarly before submitting to an editor or beta reader. Otherwise, they’ll end up focusing more on your rampant errors and typos rather than actually following along with your story.

Take a Break.

You know better than anyone when you need to take a break. After all, you’ve come this far–you deserve it! Allow yourself some time to rest and process everything you’ve accomplished thus far. When you feel like you’re ready, read your manuscript again–this time, through your ideal reader’s eyes. This will help give you that fresh perspective you’ve needed all along. How does it feel?

Finally: You feel like you’ve done your best and that your job (at least, for the moment), is done. Once you feel confident that you’ve self-edited to the best of your ability, it’s time to pass your book baby onto the pros. We promise we’ll treat it with the same TLC as you did, and then some. While you’re still not technically done, hiring the right editor will take a huge weight off your shoulders. Think you’re ready? Book a FREE consultation with us today to chat and discuss the next steps. We can’t wait!

Not sure if your writing needs work? Contact us today for your FREE editing assessment!


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