Tag Archives: self-editing

Self-editing (Writers’ group topic, February 2016)

When I wrote my first book, straight out of writing school with a head full of rules, I had a lot of self-editing checklists and dos and don’ts. These were my two favourites:

The ten mistakes list
I’ve come across this list of ‘rules’ on several other websites/blogs, but this is where I found it initially (and this version has pretty colours!)

Nuts and bolts: ‘Thought’ verbs
I believed that I’d discovered the key to writing when I came across this advice from Chuck Palahniuk, and I painstakingly ‘unpacked’ my writing and eliminated every thought verb.

When it came to self-editing my second book, I didn’t take much notice of checklists or rules. I left in a few (gasp) adverbs, ‘to be’ verbs, and dialogue attributions other than said. And sometimes (sorry Chuck Palahniuk) I let my character simply think or remember something.

I alternate between editing on paper and screen: mark-up on paper, take in changes on screen, then back to paper, then screen, then paper and so forth until I feel too guilty about trees.

My self-editing tips:

  • Keep a style sheet of tricky spellings, repeated words, and character speech and body language patterns for cross-referencing.
  • Compile a list of words you become aware of overusing so you can do a Word find (and replace if necessary) at the end.
  • Change the font and point size in your document (this makes repetition magically jump out for me).
  • Read your work aloud (I know somebody who uses a speech function to hear their work, but I haven’t tried that).

More tips from Write Club:

  • Put it aside for a while — like weeks — between major edits.
  • Do at least one edit from paper rather than electronically.
  • Read it aloud. The whole thing. Ideally to someone, to stop you cheating/skimming etc.
  • Print out to read.
  • Check for word repetition.
  • Fact check.
  • Timeline crosscheck.
  • Ensure each chapter has a new direction, and each para point towards that action.
  • A quote from Elizabeth Gilbert (thanks Connie):

    “Decide what it is you want.
    Write that shit down.
    Make a fucking plan.
    And …
    Work on it.