Self-editing is an important process of any novel writing. In fact, most of us tend to use editing as a way not to finish our draft. We think, “this chapter isn’t perfect, and I need it to be perfect to move on.” I’m not talking about that kind of self-editing.

Editing comes at the end. Well, at an end. We all know that writing that last sentence in our first draft is only the beginning! Then, we edit.

Take A Minute

Take a break before self-editing to give yourself some distance. You want to be objective when you review!
Image from Canva

How long do you take a break before you start editing? It varies for me. Six years ago, I did a staged reading of a first draft and had handouts that were given to the audience requesting their feedback. I didn’t look at a single handout for three months because I knew that I was still too close to it. I knew I would be personally offended if I saw any kind of criticism, even though I had asked for it. When I finally returned to my draft and the feedback, I was able to look at what was written objectively.

Three months could be too long for some people. There is no prescribed time length to sit and wait. If you’re ready to do it the next day, then great! If not, that’s okay too. A word of caution though: don’t wait too long. Look at your calendar and set a reminder. If you wait too long, you’ll never do it. You’ll find more and more excuses to leave that draft alone and unedited.

The Real Deal

Now here’s the main point of this blog. You cannot self-edit yourself out of needing a professional editor. Every author who wishes to be published, whether it’s traditional or self-published, needs to have their work professionally edited.

Why should you self-edit then, if you just have to get a professional to do it? It’s a great question. Professional editors cost money, which is a big reason why so many authors are hesitant to go down that path. Authors should expect to pay no less than $0.05/word. Self-editing is the first step to cleaning up a draft so that the manuscript that is sent to the editor is as tight and polished as it can be, which does save money.

I’ve tossed around “professional” several times. You’ve probably noticed. It’s important that authors choose a professional editor. Even if your neighbour who was an English teacher for 20 years reviewed it. Even if your mom (who is your biggest critic) reviewed it, you still need a professional editor. They have done the training. They know what to look for even more than your teacher neighbour or your mom. Despite their best intentions, it’s simply not enough.

What To Look For When Self-Editing

Having a self-editing checklist beside you while you do your edit is a great way to stay on target and not get lost in the weeds.
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There are several things to look for when self-editing. They include overused words and phrases, chapter hooks, too much description, or too much dialogue and more. Self-editing is a learnable skill just like everything else. If you’d like to learn more about self-editing, I provide a free self-editing masterclass every few months. Sign up to my mailing list to be notified of the next one.

Remember, writing is a marathon, not a sprint!