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5 Things You Must Do When Self-Editing Your Novel - by Bella Jay

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THE END: two of the best words an author can write! These words have you jumping for joy, doing your happy dance, sleeping, finishing off that bottle of Tequila, or whatever you do to celebrate another novel in the books.

But wait. The true fun begins: Editing. (This is the part where you run. Or maybe that’s just me?)

Editing - especially Self-editing - can be a daunting task for many of us indie authors but it doesn’t have to be! Editing is something I’ve come to highly like (haven’t reached love yet) because it has improved my skills as a writer. When you self-edit your work, you see the areas where you need improvement and take mental notes for things for the next book.

As an indie author, you should definitely be self-editing your work. And before you ask, yes that includes those of you who have professional (keyword professional) editors. Just because you have an editor, it doesn’t mean you should send them a completely unedited version of your manuscript. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

We all should be self-editing our manuscripts whether it’s minimal before handing it off to our editor OR full on because we are our own editor (I fall in this category). There are 5 things I’ve discovered that we as authors MUST do if we want to deliver a quality novel. Let’s dive into them and what you can do to make sure your next book is self - edited to perfection (or as close to it as possible)!

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1. Set It Aside

Your masterpiece is done. The first thing you need to do (after you open up that bottle of wine) is walk away from the computer - or notebook if that’s your thing - and leave it alone. Set it aside and let it rest. Don’t look at it. Don’t think about it. Move on and let it

be! Try to do this for at minimum a week but longer if you can!

But why?! I get that it sounds crazy but this is so that when you return to it, you can look at it with a fresh set of eyes. You want to approach it as if it’s something you haven’t read.

We are very attached to our work of fiction and if you go straight into editing it right after you type the last words, you’re not doing it justice. You need to put some distance between you and your book baby. It’s okay… it’ll be just fine without you.

2. Read It Out Loud OR Listen To It

Robotic Voice: Six months later.

KIDDING! Your manuscript has been resting for at least a week (I dare you to do two weeks!) and now you’re back with the current love of your life. Let the fun begin! It’s time to read it. But don’t just read it to yourself, read it out loud.

That’s so weird! I KNOW!! But it’s necessary. When you read to yourself, your brain will sometimes naturally overlook typos, grammatical errors, etc.. However, when reading out loud, being that you’re speaking every word, you can catch errors as well as pick up on sentences that leave you breathless (those are probably too long!). Hearing your words will have your mistakes screaming at you.

If you’re just not with the reading thing - I get it - another option which I love doing is having my computer read it to me. The robotic voice takes some getting used to and can also be funny at times BUT this is also a great way to pick up on run-on sentences, spelling errors, typos, and the overall flow of things!

This step is so important when it comes to self-editing. Don’t skip it!

3. Remove Crutch Words

Do you know which words or phrases you overuse? Mine at one point in time (my first novel) was ‘a bit’. I don’t know why I said a bit so much when writing but I DID and I had to cut them all except maybe two. She opened the fridge a bit. He liked her a bit. They drove a bit down the road. WHY??? Now, I’m way more aware of my use of ‘a bit’ and I don’t run into that problem in my recent novels (see how editing helps!).

You’d be surprised to see which words you use excessively! Maybe it’s ‘so’ or ‘that’ or ‘suddenly’ but you need to discover your crutch words and then go through deleting or replacing them! A couple might be necessary but not all of them and they’re just taking us space.

Depending on your writing software, you can easily discover which words you use the most. I use the program Scrivener and it has a simple feature to do that but if you use Word, there’s an add-in for that! You can also do a simple google search for word frequency checker!

4. Kill Your Darlings

We all have them. Scenes or sentences that we love so much. It’s our favorite scene or some of our best writing and it’s awesome. KILL THEM!

Now before you click the ‘X’, let me explain. This is only for pieces of writing that do not move your plot along. This can be the best scene you’ve ever written but if it doesn’t serve a purpose, you need to cut it! Kill your darlings.

Your darlings are pieces of writing that are useless but amazing at the same time. It’s going to hurt. It’s going to hurt a lot but it’s all part of the process. I still have scenes from my debut novel, Power, that I cry about taking the knife to. But it had to be done!

5. Use An Editing Program

This one may seem quite obvious but just in case it’s not - an editing program is a MUST! The spell check and grammar tools in Word are not enough! Sorry, not sorry. There are tools out there that are designed to help you edit your written work. Use them! I use both Grammarly and ProWritingAid and recommend them both! However, here’s an article by The Write Life that highlights six of the top editing services. Find the one that works for you and your budget! They are absolute lifesavers when it comes to self-editing.

Bonus Tip:

Read it one, two, three more times (always out loud or via listening to it). By the time you finish your full self-editing journey, you should be over your own book! You’ve read it so much you just can’t again - and you probably should once more! Self-editing your novel can be nerve-wracking but if you give yourself the time and patience, you can see how helpful this part of the writing journey is. It’s a tedious task but the outcome is worth it!

Share this blog post with fellow writers and comment below any more pertinent things you do when self-editing your novels!


Bella Jay

Bella Jay is an indie author who currently resides on the east coast. Her love for writing developed as a teen when she used to browse message boards and write terrible fanfiction. It was then her dream to become a published author manifested. That dream came true with Power, her debut novel. Always one for new adventures and experiences, Bella spent three years living abroad in South Korea as an English Teacher. When not writing, she can be found traveling the world, helping small businesses and brands elevate to new levels, manifesting her dreams, sipping on tea or wine while reading a book, and wishing healthy eats were pancakes and cupcakes.

Books by Bella Jay

Follow and get in touch with Bella Jay!

Facebook: @authorbellajay

Instagram: @authorbellajay


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