Tips on self-editing fiction books

Self-editing is a very important component in fiction writing. Spend some time editing your story after you have completed it. Here are a few pointers to make that happen: 

  • Several Rounds – Take one aspect of the story and read the entire story keeping that aspect in mind, for example, is your character behaving consistently? Did you use all five senses appropriately? Repeat the process until you have reviewed for all aspects. You will be surprised how much you find and change in every round. If you try to do everything in one go, you will likely miss quite a bit.
  • Remove Redundancy – Are there any unnecessary elements that need to be removed to make the story tight? This goes back to the basics of scene writing, that every scene has a pulse. If there are elements that don’t gel with that pulse, they need to be removed.
  • Story Adjustment – Is the story too long or too short in any place? This is a high level concept that you need to sit back and ponder on, once you have read your story.
  • Under-developed – Is there any place where the story is under developed in character, action, imagery or theme?
  • Repetitions – Do you have repetitions of words or concepts in places that you need to modify. This can easily happen when you are writing your first draft. This one is easily identifiable and fixable.

An excellent book for self-editing is Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.

Categories: Fiction Tips.

Comments

  1. Great article, Aditi!

    Perhaps also, once having self-edited to satisfaction, getting a professional manuscript review if you can afford it, isn’t a bad idea. The reviewer will likely see any things the writer has missed. I don’t mean checking for spelling errors or grammar misuse, but structural editing. That is, the things you have covered in this article. Sometimes others can see clearly what we have not.

    But it’s important to get a comprehensive review from someone recommended. If you just go with a manuscript appraisal service but can’t get recommendations from other writers on a particular reviewer’s credentials then you can end up throwing your money away: a lot of it!

    So the reviewer should cover all aspects: ‘voice’, dialogue, narrative authority, plot structure, themes and the ability of the author to illustrate these themes in the narrative, ‘flat’ spots, pacing, sentence and paragraph structure, and (most of all) the ability to create suspense and maintain reader interest. If you get less than this you have made the wrong choice.

  2. Thank you so much for that! Particularly interested in the several rounds, the first point. You mentioned two aspects. My mind has gone blank on others. Could you add some more, please.

    • Profile photo of Aditi Chopra

      Debbie, I am glad you found my article useful. As for mentioning other aspects, it goes back to the revision checklist. I always like to keep checklist for everything I do – from character building to story elements to scene elements and revision checklist. As you revise/edit your stories, make note of what you changed and keep building your revision checklist to use for future. Some of the other aspects to look for are – why should the reader turn from one page to another, are there enough hooks for the reader, did your story start at the right timeframe or do you need to tweak it(it happens with many writers), does your story have deep POV or is it too generic?
      Hope this helps.

      Report user
      • Thanks Aditi. I have mentally said yes to all the other aspects so hopefully I’m on track. I am currently editing someone else’s manuscript so I’m hoping that I will soon pick up mine again with fresh eyes.

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