December 8, 2014

11 Tips for Self-Editing Your Manuscript

When you read your story, does it sound off, maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know you’ve done something wrong? Sometimes–maybe even lots of times–there are simple fixes. These writer’s tips will come at you once a week, giving you plenty of time to go through your story and make the adjustments.

These 11 tips are from Renni Browne and Dave King’s wonderful book, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit Yourself Into Print. If you are preparing a story for your writers group, for a beta reader, or want to knock out the most obvious errors before spending money on a professional copy editor, this book should be on your Christmas list. You’ll notice their comments are more non-judgmental than most reviewers. Their focus is to help you consider important elements of your writing–do they deliver the message you want them to in your writing? Feel free to read more of my review, then check back here for the most important tips Browne and King cover. Here are my favorites:

  • Narrative summary no longer engages readers the way it once did. Showing your story… will not only give your writing immediacy. It will give it transparency.
  • Are you describing your characters’ feelings?
  • It’s often a good idea to introduce a new character with enough physical description for your readers to picture him or her.
  • Some writing books distinguish as many as twenty-six different flavors of point of view, but there are really only three basic approaches: first person, third person, and omniscient
  • (If you move from head to head) Would your story gain power if you stuck with a single viewpoint character or broke your scenes up at appropriate places … to make this possible?
  • Take a look at your language. Is it right for your viewpoint character?
  • Take a look at your descriptions. Are the details you give the ones your viewpoint character would notice?
  • Do you have tangents–little subplots or descriptions that don’t advance the plot?
  • (On the importance of dialogue mechanics: This from an agent): The first thing I do is find a scene with some dialogue. If the dialogue doesn’t work, the manuscript gets bounced. If it’s good, I start reading.
  • Can you get rid of any of your speaker attributions?
  • Read your dialogue aloud

For more self-editing tips, check out Writing Forward’s post. For a checklist, here’s one from Change it up Editing.

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To purchase Self-Editing for Fiction Writers from Amazon, click image:

More on editing:

How to Edit Your Novel (according to Yuvi)

8 Steps All Writers Follow When They Edit

20 Hints that Mark the Novice Writer

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Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of dozens of books on integrating tech into education, webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her book at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.