Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing & Publishing ~

Writers Who Self-Edit

If you’re not a writer, you may not be familiar with the process of internally editing what you’re about to say.


Image Courtesy of Leo Cinezi ~

Some writers aren’t aware they do this—some are plagued by it…

Then, there’s the dreaded internal editorial critic who’s getting in the way of the creative flow of the first draft—judging little things and keeping the important parts penned-up.

Of course, there comes the time of reckoning—after the Muse has done the magic—doing the necessary self-editing of one’s work, even if it will be passed on to other eyes and minds for appraisal.

I found two articles about self-editing that I’ll share with my readers who are writers (and, hope my other readers will share them with their writer friends…).

The first is 5 Steps for Editing a Novel from the Inside Out by Marc Baldwin, owner of edit911.

I find Marc’s article fascinating because he doesn’t talk about grammar and syntax directly; nor does he give you methods for catching typos—he goes above that into what might be called the developmental editor’s mind.

Here are his 5 steps (with explanations in the article…):

  1. Be true to the narrative voice
  2. Assure the characters’ credibility
  3. Attend to the plot
  4. What does it all add up to?
  5. Is it a satisfying, organic story?

Do go read Marc’s full article, especially if you just finished one or more early drafts…

The other article is Writing: How to Self-Edit Your Novel by Jessica Bell.

Jessica gives you some powerful ideas for what she calls editing piece by piece and has a book to back it up—Polish Your Fiction: A Quick & Easy Self-Editing Guide—but I’ll only excerpt the bit that clearly shows the wrong way to self-edit:

“…let’s say you’ve read through the first chapter of your manuscript and the only error you notice is the word cafe lacking the accent on the e. Easy. You fix it. And you make a mental note to catch that as you go along.

“But in the next chapter, you come across an awkwardly structured sentence, an embarrassing grammatical error, a character that is speaking in a way that sounds like another character, and you seem to have used the word look way too many times in one paragraph.

“That’s a lot to fix. But you do it fix it, and all seems like it’s in order.

“But guess what? You were so focussed on fixing these things, that you didn’t notice the other instance of cafe lacking the accent on the e. And now that you’ve reworded a few things, you’ve also buggered up your punctuation, and introduced a new spelling mistake. Whoops.”

I know I have at least one editor who reads this blog (perhaps she’ll add a comment…) but I have many writer-readers—hoping they’ll all add to the Comments :-)
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8 responses to “Writers Who Self-Edit

  1. Jane Watson July 9, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Marc’s no.1 step really resonated with me. I think narrative voice is so important – an authentic voice that seems ’emotionally true ‘ to the reader. The point that Jessica makes about “… The most efficient way to edit…”, which is to “…isolate all the things you need to fix, and focus on fixing one thing on your list, before moving onto the next…” is, I think, very helpful. However until you have a manuscript that satisfies with a true narrative voice, all other line and punctuation and word edits are premature in my opinion :-)


  2. Author Jessica Bell July 15, 2014 at 4:35 am

    Thanks for drawing attention to my book! I’d like to reply to Jane regarding her statement “However until you have a manuscript that satisfies with a true narrative voice, all other line and punctuation and word edits are premature in my opinion.”

    This is spot on. Polish Your Fiction is about polishing a READY manuscript. I make this very clear in the introduction of the book, where I say, “I must start by saying that this book is designed to help you polish your manuscript, not build your story. It can be used as a detailed checklist, so to speak, during your last, or even second-last, editing pass. So if you are reading this book, I am assuming you have reached the last stages of developmental revision, and want to prepare your manuscript for publication.”

    Hope that has shed some light on my advice.


    Liked by 1 person

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