Tip #1: You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. Congratulations. Take some time off and celebrate. No, really, I mean it. Set your novel in a drawer for at least six weeks. Do something else in the meantime. If you want, start another novel, go on vacation, read a book, visit friends, or spring clean the house. But resist the temptation to pick up that draft. This is the first and most important step to self-editing. You need to look at your work with a fresh eye.
The six weeks are over. It’s time to pull out that manuscript and get busy. Now what? Here’s some things that will help.
Tip #2: Read or review a self-editing book to remind yourself what problems you are looking for. My favorite is “Self-Editing For Fiction Writers” by Browne and King. Even if you’ve read this book before, you’ll need the reminders fresh in your mind.
Tip #3: Use find and replace to search out ly words and other problem words, and replace them when you can. See this link for the problem words and this link for how to get rid of ly words.
Tip #4: Print out a hard copy of your manuscript. Read it over using a red ink pen to make notes in the margins. It’s amazing what you’ll find when you read a hard copy.
Tip #5: After reading the hard copy, go back and make your changes.
Tip #6: Print the manuscript out again, find the red ink pen. This time, read your manuscript out loud using your red ink pen to mark changes that need to be made.
Tip #7: Now go back and make the changes again.
Tip #8: You guessed it. Print the manuscript out a third time. No, I’m not trying to kill trees. This is a very important part of the process. You need that hard copy in front of you when you’re editing.
Tip #9: Make the changes, and read through it two more times. You don’t have to print it out this time. But you might want to try reading it backwards so you can find common grammar, punctuation, and spelling mistakes.
Tip #10: Have a small group of people to read over your finished product. You will need at least one grammar expert in this group. The other members can be a couple of people who love to read and a writer or two who will give you a hard critique. See this link for how to have a critique help your writing. Make any needed changes you agree with.
Now you’re done. Give yourself a pat on the back. Then get busy and write a query and proposal, and research those literary agents and publishers.
A writer’s work is never done.