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10 Things I Know About Self-editing

In undergrad, I took a few courses on film theory and criticism. They were welcome breaths of fresh air from the more mundane courses on finance, economics and statistical analysis. Writing, and specifically grammar, was not my strong point. I remember getting a C- for style on my first film paper. I was devastated and went to see my prof for advice. He said, the best way to improve your writing is to keep editing, over and over again. I clearly hadn’t done so and it took me a few years to appreciate his guidance. I finally realized that anything committed to writing, from proposals to emails, was a representation of me, either positive or negative. Once distributed, it was forever.

As I approach the editing phase of my book, I’ll edit the heck out of my draft. There’s comfort in knowing my draft also will be reviewed by friends and colleagues for content, and a professional copy editor for grammar.

Before then, I must do the first edit to the best of my ability (better than a C- for sure!). To orient me to the task, I did some research on how to self-edit. Here are the guidelines I am planning to use:

  1. First, read the entire document for the big picture. Does it make sense?
  2. Proofread a hard copy as well as editing on the screen
  3. Read the work aloud for flow and tone
  4. Keep sentences of varying lengths
  5. Blend shorter and longer paragraphs
  6. Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs
  7. Get rid of words I don’t need
  8. Remove or change favourite words – the ones I really like and use too often
  9. Expect editing to take longer than I want it to, but know the extra time is worth it 
  10. Remember I cannot be fully objective about what I have written

I still have a week of content writing before I start editing. I think it will be more fun than writing, but I thought writing would be more fun than research. We shall see. Fun or not, it will allow me to test my writing style to ensure it’s right for the book I want to write. As a friend counselled recently, the voice is as important as the content. That makes 11 things I know about self-editing.


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