10 Tips to Editing Your Own Novel

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.

Words Writers Should Delete

As writers, we love words. But there are some words that should rarely be used or are used in the wrong way. Here’s a list of words I search for in my WIP’s. I’ve used them in bad examples and showed what the sentence would look like if I delete the word. When I find these words, if I can, I hit delete.


There were some flowers in the vase. There were flowers in the vase.


She hoped that he would ask her to marry him. She hoped he would ask her to marry him.


Go over to the neighbor’s house. Go to the neighbor’s house.


She even wanted to get some ice cream. She wanted to get some ice cream.


He set down the book on the table. He set the book on the table.


He started to run. He ran.

Begin, began, begun

He began to sing. He sang.


He was almost six feet tall. He was six feet tall.


I’m doing that right now. I’m doing that now.


She’s such a sweet person. She’s a sweet person. Better yet – She stayed with me until I felt better.


It’s been quite a day. It’s been a day.


Go to the store about 7:00. Go to the store at 7:00.


Then he stormed out. He stormed out.


All of the buildings were torn down. The buildings were torn down.


He seemed like a gentleman. He was a gentleman. Better yet – He opened the door for me.


The dog barked very loudly. The dog barked. (dogs don’t bark softly)


I’ve been tired. I’m tired.


He was only twelve years old. He was twelve years old.


She was real ugly. She was ugly.


She sat on the chair. She sat.


He had known she would leave him. He knew she would leave him.


He ran out into the field. He ran into the field.


He took his clothes off. He undressed.


She glanced up at him. She glanced at him.


I went back to the scene of the crime. I returned to the scene of the crime.


I was being a silly. I was silly. Better yet – I stuck my tongue out and giggled.


She was going to break up with him. She would break up with him.


I have got to go. I have to go.

Was before ing

He was running in the race. He ran in the race.