“Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.”~Stephen King
Last week I published a blog post about Increasing Writing Speed and Unlocking Creativity. In that article I encouraged you to write freely for a minimum of one hour each day without stopping to second guess word choices, grammar or punctuation; however, these things are extremely important during the revision and self-editing phase, which is the next step once you've completed the first draft of your work.
7 Self-editing Tips to Polish Your Writing:
1. Always edit with fresh eyes. Once you’ve finished your first draft, it’s a good idea to put it away for a day or two before you begin the self-editing process. Take some time to relax and recharge your battery. You will come back to your project rejuvenated and ready to tackle the self-editing process with fresh eyes and renewed motivation.
2. Read it aloud. Chances are you will hear things your eyes did not see as you say the words out loud. Take note of where you stumble while reading your first draft. These are the areas you may want to consider rewriting. Any sentence you have to read twice is most likely an area that needs attention. If you stumble, chances are your readers will, too. Be mindful of longer run-on sentences that may be exhausting to readers.
3. Eliminate. Make your writing more concise and easier to read by eliminating unnecessary words and unneeded prepositions. See which words you can omit without losing the clarity of the sentence. Extraneous words to watch for are: that, just, very, really and some.
Watch for weak, passive language such as: the 'ly' words, 'to be' verbs, especially when used with 'ing' words. Use strong, active verbs to show rather than tell.
4. Perform a line-edit. Carefully edit each line separately and individually, then each paragraph, as well as each section. One trick is to edit each out of order and then go back and look at the piece as a whole.
5. Watch for Redundancy. Use a thesaurus to replace repetitive words with synonyms. A thesaurus can be a writer’s best friend and often it is built into most writing programs. If you are using Microsoft Word, click the Review tab from the Toolbar to find it. There are many online thesaurus sites you can use as well.
6. Perform a spelling and grammar check. Use your discretion when using the grammar check tool in Microsoft Word. Be mindful of suggested grammar corrections that can cause you to lose your unique writing voice. For example, sentence fragments are sometimes used to gain an effect. Your grammar checker will likely advise against all sentence fragments, but sometimes they are necessary. Use discretion. Did you catch what I did there?
The most accurate grammar checker I've found is Grammarly.com. This is by far my favorite writing tool. They offer a limited free option, but I prefer the paid subscription that will check all my writing as I type, whether that be in an email, in a blog post, or even a post on social media. With their paid membership, you can check up to 20 pages of writing at a time, perfect for copying and pasting chapters of your book as you self-edit. Over time, their suggestions may even help to improve your writing.
7. Avoid Clichés. Clichés exist on all levels of writing, from ideas as a whole to phrases, and even individual words when used under certain conditions. Question what sounds familiar, because it probably is. Ask yourself if you’ve heard or seen that idea/series of words before.
I hope you've enjoyed this article on self-editing. These tips are intended to help polish your prose before you seek feedback from a professional editor. When working on a writing project such as a book, professionally editing is mandatory.
***If you enjoyed this article, check out my 8-Week Book Writing Intensive. This course will walk you through each step of the book writing process, from idea to publication.