Saturday, March 23, 2019

Self-Editing: a hard slog through spelling, punctuation, word choice, and aggravation.

So your novel is completed?  You've read through it  until you can't stand the sight of it.  But there's always a niggling doubt. One more pass-through?  Give to a friend? Hire an editor? 
How do you self-edit your novel?  

I cheat.  Belonging to a writer's group is great.  Six sets of eyes are better than one, and they find the bulk of my errors.  There is a gentleman who is a grammar ace.  He finds every misspelling, every word that should/should not be hyphenated, should be two words, or italicized.  I also give it to my friend who is an accomplished proof reader. We read each other's work. 
Of course, there is always spell check, but it doesn't find everything.  Believe me, it doesn't, and it isn't always up on the latest information. 
Here are a few tricks.  After you've read your masterpiece on your computer, print the WHOLE BLOODY THING out (we recyle all paper, so I don't feel that guilty) and read it on the written page.  Move it to your Kindle or electronic reading device.  Somehow, a new device makes the errors pop out.  Maybe a couple of friends with sharp eyes can be arm-twisted into reading the finished (well, almost) work. Give them pat on the back in the credits and a free copy. 
By now, you should have a clean manuscript. If your publisher doesn't offer editing (most do) or if you're self-publishing, you can hire a line (not a developmental) editor for the final pass. This can cost a lot. 
I believe submitting to KDP also involves a spell and formatting check. If you self-publish, there is usually a mechanism for making corrections down the line. With a steely determination to find every typo, you should not have to do this very often.  And remember, even the New York Times makes an occasional typo.  If your readers point it out, fix if you can, otherwise, well, it happens. 
I found six or seven typos going through the above words a third time.  No doubt you can find some more. 

Here are some accomplished writers with good advice.  


  1. Good advice, Judith. No writer is perfect so everyone needs help.

  2. Another excellent post on how to edit. I need your gentleman grammarian on my team. I do have the good fortune to have a daughter who even finds mistakes the copy editor at my publishing house misses and she is willing to read and fix my stuff, too.

  3. Spellcheck is not infallible which is why I rarely use it. I also am careful using search and replace. After one disastrous 'replace all' I discovered that parts of longer words had been changed too. Yes, I had to go through the whole MS to correct that. So now I go to each word and make sure I am only changing what needs changing.

  4. Good advice. I agree, having others read our final draft is a great help.

  5. Hi Judith, Lucky you to have these helpful people in your group. Three times through, and more, sounds so very familiar, anne

  6. Good post. Six writers checking your writing sounds wonderful and definitely they'll pick up more than one set of eyes. Sounds like a great process.


Your comments are always welcome!