Five Things to Look Out for When Self-Editing
You’ve written a wonderful novel, a compelling story that must be published. But the first step in getting anything published is to make it shine. This is where self-editing comes into play. The writing process is just that- a process- and editing is an important step. It’s where you can correct those simple mistakes that will lead a publishing house to accept or deny your story.
There are many things that you need to do to make your story better from commas to semi-colons. Capitalization, spelling and grammar are just small pieces of the puzzle. There are so many different things to good editing that we could spend all day talking about them or taking a class on them. Today I’m sharing with you just five simple things to look out for when you edit.
Spell Check is Not the Best Tool
Most of us rely on spell check when we are writing. It automatically corrects those spelling mistakes corrects punctuation for us. But spell check is often incorrect and does miss some very common errors. In fact, depending on your settings it may not even be checking the words in your document. Rather than rely on spell check, it’s best if you use a dictionary or thesaurus if you are unsure about a word.
With the advent of the auto-correct, I’m seeing more and more silly wordings in documents. The auto correct will anticipate what word you are trying to type and put it in the sentence, only for you to find that it called your mother a “gas” instead of a “guest”. Turn off the auto-correct function. It will only lead to more silly mistakes then it corrects.
Read Your Manuscript Differently
One of the best things you can do is to change the format of your manuscript when you do a read through. By changing the formatting, your eyes will see the mistakes more easily. One author that I know prints off her pages and uses the dreaded little red pen to mark her mistakes. She’s found that a hard copy makes it easier for her. Other authors use their Kindle to read through their story to see how the reader will see it. This allows for you to notice any spacing issues as well.
Even reading your story aloud will make a huge difference. If you come to a part that you stumble with as you read aloud, your audience will as well. Often line editors will read the manuscript back from the end word for word to catch mistakes. Our eyes are trained to fill in those words that we know are supposed to be there. No matter which way you choose or which way works for you, you should make sure to read through your manuscript with a keen eye to help you find those mistakes.
Over Use of Words
We’ve all done it. We have some favorite phrase and use it too often. Just think back to the speaker who kept saying “like” during their speech. Remember how annoying it was? When we write, often it is a form of our own spoken language. Because of this, we tend to use words that we are comfortable with. These words can be used over and over again, making the story line appear comical. Microsoft Word has a function that will help you find the words you use constantly. By clicking on the page number at the bottom of the document screen (page 1 of 1), a Go To dialog box will open. Click on Find and then type in a word such as “and”. The search function will tell you quickly how many “ands” were in your document as well as highlight each one.
Formal vs. Informal Language
Most of us understand that when we write a dissertation on a research subject, we must use formal language. That being said, I am horrible about slipping into a formal speech pattern when I write. See I did it there^. Contractions are an author’s best friend. It sounds more natural for your characters to use the contraction phrase of “I’m” rather than “I am”. By using the contractions for your characters’ speeches, your characters come alive to the reader. Readers are better able to connect with them and find them less pretentious.
When your story started, your heroine’s name was Syndie with an “S” but somewhere during the story line, the name changed to Cyndie with a “C”. The hero at the beginning of the story had deep blue eyes, but later on his eyes were chocolate brown. These are content errors. When writing a story, authors sometimes have to stop in the middle of the story and come back to writing another day. But when we come back to writing, things have changed in our minds. That’s why it is important to put these characterization pieces down in writing before you begin your story. It will help you keep things straight in your head.
But let’s say you’ve already written your story, how do you correct it or look for this? That’s simple, you can always create a characterization at any time. Write down the character’s gender, eye color, hair color and length, and as many details as you can about them from your read through. This will allow you to have a list. Then you can always refer back to your list as you read to see if there are any inconsistencies.
These are only five things that you should look out for when self-editing. There are so many more things that you can work to improve upon. I like to learn about one of my editing mistakes and keep a sticky note on my computer so that when I’m writing the next book, I can eliminate that mistake from my work. After all, if we don’t have time to do it write then we must have time to do it again. Those mistakes will always catch up to you in editing!