4 Tips for Self Editing

I’m rapidly approaching the editing stage for my own novel, and honestly, I’m dreading it. I love editing other people’s work, but self-editing is a different beast entirely.


Put that manuscript in the bottom drawer with your bottle of whiskey and let it sit for a few weeks.

Usually by the time a novel is finished, I’ve become so familiar with every word they start to blur together, and it’s hard for me to see what needs to be changed. So the first thing I need to do in order to be an effective self editor is gain some perspective. All of these tips are designed to put some distance between the author and the brand new manuscript, so you can evaluate it more objectively.

1. Let it sit

Put the manuscript away. Tuck it into the bottom drawer of your desk where you keep that half-full bottle whiskey. Let it sit, undisturbed, for at least a couple of weeks. This really helps you to see it with fresh eyes when you do take it back out.

2. Change the font

This seems very simple, but it’s actually really effective. I recommend switching to Courier, or if you’re using Courier, to Times New Roman. If the shape of the words you’ve been staring at for months or years changes, it helps you to see them anew.

3. Read it out loud

Nothing will help you catch awkward phrases and stilted dialogue like hearing the novel read out loud. There’s even software out there that will read it to you. (Like Natural Reader) This helps you slow down as you’re reading the story, and to experience it more like a reader would.

4. Read it backwards

This tip is mainly for people who need to proofread their own work. If you hire a proofreader, then this step might not be necessary, but if you have to do it yourself, reading it backwards, word by word, will keep you from skimming right over your typos.

The key is to try and get some distance from your new novel so you can look at it with fresh eyes and see what needs to be changed. And now I’m off to read a few chapters out loud to myself in the hopes that I’ll see them in a new light. Wish me luck!

image by (unkwown) (Peter Currie, Springbank Distillery) [GFDL  or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4 thoughts on “4 Tips for Self Editing

  1. Grandma says:

    When you are painting, it is essential for stand back and look at it. Or look at it in the mirror. I liked your blog.

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