Self-Editing By Paul Hook

10th Feb 2023


You can view more of Paul’s work here

Read part one here! 

Congratulations. You have finished your short story, flash fiction, novella or novel. This calls for a celebration, but do not party too hard or too long.

Now that you are finished the rough draft, the real work begins. Some writers look forward to the moment that a work is finished because they have a crack team of dedicated ‘beta readers’ to peruse their story, looking for imperfections, holes in the plot or typos. Nevertheless, as an indie writer, you may be working by yourself.

The work of self-editing can be difficult, but I am here to give you some tricks of the trade.

Step #1 – Take a Break

Have a cooling off period. I find it useful to wait a few days between finishing the rough draft and beginning the editing process. Time allows you to get some space from your story, which gives you the ability to be objective and have a fresh set of eyes on the masterpiece that you wrote.

Step #2 – Editing typically begins with a macro view and ends with a micro view. Think of the structural details of the piece of work as the macro and the spelling, grammar and punctuation as the micro. You want to read the story to see if you need to move chapter 2 to the beginning of the story. Or perhaps you began to ramble on about someone’s cat for three whole pages and it adds nothing to the plot. Those large structural edits need to be completed at the onset of the post-rough draft part of finishing your story.

As a side note, if you have a friend, family member or dedicated editor, they can also do, what has called a ‘developmental edit’ of your story. That person will read your rough draft and provide a written report on the structure and content. Think of it like when you were in school and the teacher gave you feedback on your essay that you wrote in the wee hours of the night. Only this time, your grade will not upset your parents!

Step #3 – Copy Edit

So you have the major holes filled in your story, you have re-organized the flow and you are happy with how it looks. You may think you are finished, but now comes the ‘copy edit.’ This phase of editing looks at paragraphs and sentences. Did you keep the same tense through the paragraph? Is the pacing correct? Are the sentences too long? Paragraph structure should work well with the part of the story – short and precise or long and flowy. Are there too many details for the scene? Or not enough?

Step #4 – Proofreading.

At this point in the editing process, you are reading your story for the fourth or fifth time and are likely skimming over whole sentences because you know the content by heart. Do not get too cocky. Proofreading requires patience, and I have found that reading everything aloud is the most humbling part of the editing process. It will not only tell you if you’ve hit the mark on the structural and copy editing phases, but it will give you the ability to slow down and see or hear every single word that you have written. Typos will become glaringly obvious. You will notice that you need a comma in between two words. Perhaps you notice that you nailed a funny anecdote and you are happy with how it sounds. Remember, editing is not a negative process. Celebrate your successes as well.

Step #5 – Celebrate.

You have finished the editing process and have a work worthy of being read by someone outside yourself or inner circle. However, do not publish it just yet. Take your story and have someone else read it one last time. They may find the one or two periods, typos or spacing adjustments that need to make your story the best it can be.

Step #6 And once that is done, if you are truly happy with it, share it with the world. Post it on social media, submit it to a magazine or keep it for yourself. Remember that process for the next time.

Keep writing and enjoy every part of the process.


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