Prepublishing, Tips & Tricks, Traditional

What Is Self-Editing

Self-editing gets thrown around, but what exactly is self-editing? We recognize it and define it in our own way. It seems logical, but for many, they don’t know where to begin or what it all entails.

Each read through when we self-edit should focus on specific aspects.


Structure involves plot pacing and believability


Did you under-explain key points, over-explain normal points, or did you assume your reader understood without leaving a trail?

Grammar and Punctuation

This is the part most people think of when they hear “self-editing.” It looks at spelling, punctuation, and word choice.

These three parts come during two main stages—revision and editing. Each stage can happen multiple times during the process, and they can happen one at a time or overlap.


Revising is expanding the story. Here are some key traits in revising:

  • Expanding the plot and does your plot fit the genre
  • Clarifying parts
  • Increasing description and decreasing the telling
  • Enhance characters
  • Removing unnecessary elements that don’t propel the story forward
  • Are you overusing metaphors and similes?
  • Adding/arranging subplots
  • Checking pacing

Useful websites to help with revising:


Editing is the polishing stage.

Remove, replace, reduce crutch words (words that are overused)

  • These are fluff words that appear in everyday conversation but add nothing of substance to your statement. These are words like “um,” “ah,” “really,” “actually,” and “suddenly.”
  • Some writers add adverbs that end in ly, like “quickly.”
  • Others would add “hedging” words like “well” and “regardless.” These are words that make a statement and make it less confident, less direct, and more polite. In dialogue, these are common depending on the character speaking (women use hedge words more often than men), but in the prose (everything but dialogue) there shouldn’t be many if any of these type words.

Use the built-in spell checker

Remove/replace weak verbs with stronger ones

  • Example: replace “very angry” with “furious”

Tense hopping

  • Present tense, past tense, first-person, third-person, etc.

Useful websites to help learn more about self-editing and things to look out for

It doesn’t replace another set of eyes—you know what you mean, but not everyone speaks your language—but having a clean manuscript helps your betas, editors, and proofers do their job and focus on what matters, making sure your story is readable by the masses.

Not having a clear guideline or understanding of what happens after the first draft might be why many novices strive for the perfect first draft, why many writers never make it past the 5-year mark of consistent publishing, and also be why some writers can knock out a book a month—they have a clear process and a clear understanding of where they are in the process.

Self-editing isn’t a single day process. It takes time to learn how to strengthen your work, make it clearer, and the intent precise. Tackle it a little at a time, and your story will be ready for the publishing soon enough.

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This post was edited/proofed by ProWritingAid.


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