Author Advice

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The Beautiful Art of Self Editing

Self-editing isn't about making sure you have a perfect novel before it even gets to the editor. It's simply about making sure your ideas are put across clearly so that your editor has a good starting point to make it shine like the diamond it truly is.

Things To Check...




Probably going to sound a little bit obvious here but you should definitely be checking for spelling mistakes before you send your book to your editor. Don't get me wrong - you'll miss some - and that is definitely okay. Editors expect to have to fix spelling errors. What they don't expect is for a manuscript to be littered with them. One reason why it's important to find some of them yourself is that it helps you to improve your writing. If you know you have a habit of spelling a given word wrong every time you write it, you'll be proactive in preventing that mistake in the future.

There are a lot of ways to check for spelling mistakes. Obviously, Grammarly and Spellcheck are great aids with this one but it's important to use your eyes too. Your eyes will spot things that tools don't because you know the context, the tools don't. A great way to check at a glance for spelling mistakes is to read the manuscript backwards because then you have to focus on each individual word or read it aloud because then you will find yourself naturally jarring when you stumble across a mistake.




Punctuation tells your story just as much as the words you choose to use and that's why editing it is so important. Punctuation helps readers make sense of the jumble of words you've chosen to put together. When self-editing its important to check that every sentence is finished properly, i.e. there is some form of punctuation (period, question mark, exclamation mark). That's the easy bit. As well as that you'll want to check your commas. Most authors either underuse or overuse commas. I'm in the overuse category so I'm usually removing commas when I self edit. Re-read the manuscript aloud and check that commas, colons and semi-colons are all in appropriate places (to simplify - where you naturally pause). If you have any lists you'll want to check that you've got all your commas in place.



While checking your punctuation, I'd suggest checking that you've capitalised the first letter of every new sentence. Obviously you know that that's the way your story should be written but you'd be surprised how easy it is to miss the shift key when you're writing crazy fast in the heat of the moment. The same goes for all proper nouns (i.e. the names of people, places and objects), and appropriate words in any titles (i.e. your chapter headings).



It's important to check that the verbs and subjects used throughout your manuscript agree (i.e. they and were, he and was) and to check that all your sentences are complete and easy to understand.



Last but not least, your formatting needs to be checked over. Some editors might have guidelines for how to format your book ahead of editing but many don't. However, it's always polite and helpful for you as an author in the long run if you have already formatted your manuscript.

Basic Formatting - Font size 12, an easily legible font, single spacing, page breaks between chapters.


As authors if we complete these tasks before sending our manuscript to the editor not only will our editors find it easier to edit our work, but our writing will improve as a result.



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Self Editing

As an author I cannot endorse self editing enough... but how do you do it? What tools can you use? Do you self edit? Are there any ways to make it easier? Do you have a process for self editing?

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