6 Tips to Self-Editing Your Own Writing Work & Polishing Your Novel

6 Tips to Self-Editing Your Own Writing Work & Polishing Your Novel

Sometimes it's easy to edit our own writing work. Of course, that's usually when we're going through the physical act of writing it. When we want the inner editor turned off, it has a funny way of popping up and making the writing difficult.

But once you get the writing done, it's time to turn the inner editor back on (if you were able to turn her off to begin with).

Before you do that, however, there's one thing you should do first: take a break. Reward yourself. If you wrote an article, take a day or two off. If it's a book, take at least a week off. Just remember to go back to it (don't drop it and then forget about it indefinitely).

The reason why you need to take a break is so that you have time to clear your head and so you can reward yourself. Completing a first draft is important and should be treated as a major accomplishment. Completion is vital to your writing success. And rewards are good. They encourage you to keep moving forward. If you work nonstop, you'll eventually burn out.

Should you take notes or make physical edits your first edit through?

If the muse shows up during the editing process, by all means, take advantage of it. If nothing comes to you, take notes on how you can work on editing your own writing work. What can you do to make it better? Stronger? More credible?

Do you really need to print it out?

There's something about seeing your writing on paper that taps into your inner editor, allowing you to see things you might have missed on the screen. It also allows you to make handwritten notes in the margins and to markup the pages with a pen or pencil.

You want me to say what?

Force yourself to sound out each word. Read it at normal speed, then slow down and pay attention to each word on the page. See what's really written and not what you meant to write.

How often do you type the wrong word? It happens to me. That's why I go back through it, forcing myself to see, and absorb, the words that are really on the pages. It's easy to miss errors because your brain knows what should be there.

How much grammar do you need to know?

Self-editing is hard when you're not familiar with common mistakes and those things to look out for to improve your writing. Grab a grammar book of common mistakes and study the examples. This will help you eliminate errors and issues.

Also, know when and why characters and plots need improvement.

Do you need to edit all at once?

Editing your own writing all at once can be exhausting and ineffective. It's best to edit in spurts. If you're editing an article, go through the first and second revisions up front. Then go back to it a few hours (or a day) later and revise it again.

If you're editing a book, set a page or section goal for each day or week. If your plan is to edit all day, set a small page or section or time goal, then take a short break before getting back to your edits.

What to do next…

Jody Calkins
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Jody Calkins

MG/YA Author & Book Editor at Emery Road Writing Services, LLC
Jody Calkins is a MG/YA Author & Book Editor, Writer's Coach, Content Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Pilot's Wife. Author of SHATTERED, a YA speculative thriller. Her editing services and training programs help novelists improve their writing skills, get motivated to write, improve productivity and time management, and battle self-doubt and other roadblocks. She works with middle-grade, young adult, and adult books in a variety of genres including Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, and Self-Help.
Jody Calkins
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  • Prudence MacLeod

    This is truly useful information, especially for newbies trying their wings. You always post such great information. I guess I should you that more often. Thanks for sharing.

  • Great advice! I’m a huge fan of the hard-copy edit, as well as reading the manuscript out loud.

    When we choose to read a story, we’re really choosing to tell that story to ourselves. If you trip over the words when you read the story out loud, chances are others will trip when they’re reading it themselves.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Marjorey

    Thanks Jody, these tips are really helpful for me. To be honest, I really found it difficult. I always find myself on how to make it easier somehow. But I think following these tips could lead me into self editing success. 🙂 Marjorie of Red-pen-masters.com.