29 July 2020

Self-Editing Basics: 9 Simple Ways to Edit Your Manuscript

As most of my readers already know, I'm in the midst of editing my next three historical fiction pieces that are part of The Country Girl Empress series: AT THE CASTLE OF DREAMS (book 5) and two yet untitled projects (book 6 and 7). With that in mind, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to share some tips and tricks that help me along the way to polish my manuscript.

Take a Break

After finishing your initial draft put it aside for a day, a week, a month or however long you need to return to it with fresh eyes.

Structure the Task

Tackle the largest tasks first, such as plot structure. Once you are satisfied with it, move on to the smaller details, like grammar, style, and punctuation.

Use Online Tools

Don't be afraid to utilize online tools, such as Grammarly or Hemingwayapp to discover which sentences might be difficult to read, improve your vocabulary and check for contextual spelling. While these online tools do not replace a flesh and blood editor, they can certainly help along the way. 

Read Aloud

It might sound strange, but read your work aloud; you can even record your own voice. Hearing the rhythm of the words can help you edit the flow. Sometimes it's easier to hear the mistakes than to see them. 

Have the Computer do the Reading

Whether you're just tired of reading yourself, or have a sore throat - just have your computer do the reading. Regardless of the OS on your computer, there's a solution. Microsoft Word has this ability already built in, even though it's not prominently displayed. If you prefer or do not use MS Office products, perhaps one of the third-party software is for you such as eSpeak or NaturalReaders. 

Check the Tense

Errors in tense can sneak up on anyone when in the midst of writing. Double-check to make sure you didn't inadvertently switch back and forth. 

Change Things Up

After reading the same text over and over again, you begin to see what you want to see. Try reading from back to front to uncover previously undiscovered errors. 

Be Ruthless

Do not be afraid to cut passages from your manuscript that just don't work! So it doesn't feel like a complete loss, paste the cut passages to a blank document for future reference. 

Change the Looks

Modify the font, colour and/or font size to give you a new perspective. The altered appearance could help you see the text in a different light.

Since my list of self-editing tips is not all inclusive, I would love to hear what works for you. Please feel free to add to this list in the comment section!

Piper is the author of several non-fiction books, and recently added five historical fiction novels to her ever-expanding collection of published writings, In the Shadow of Her MajestyThe Country Girl EmpressA Life in the Shadow of the Crown, The Perpetual Traveler, and Excerpts from the Imperial Diary. When she isn't busy typing on her computer, she can be found chasing after her furry children or holding on tightly to a good cup of coffee. Follow her on LinkedInFacebookInstagram, and Goodreads.
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  1. Of all the items listed, one stands out: Read aloud. The ear can hear what the eye overlooks. Great list!

    1. Isn't it amazing!? When you read aloud and something doesn't flow quite right, you can hear it immediately, even after you've read through it several times. Thank you for stopping by, and commenting, Marian!

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting on this article! I apologize that it took me so long to reply, but your comment just popped up this morning.