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Transform Your Writing Through the Surprising Benefits of Self-Editing

Transform Your Writing Through the Surprising Benefits of Self-Editing

 Transform Your Writing Through the Surprising Benefits of Self-Editing

Have you ever wondered how to elevate your writing to the next level? Self-editing may be the solution you’ve been seeking. 

Learning to review and refine what you write can do wonders for your style while enriching every story and message you create. In this article, we’ll look at the unexpected benefits of self-editing and how they can enhance your writing. From catching errors to maintaining your distinctive voice, we’ll cover six key areas where self-editing can make all the difference. So, whether you’re a seasoned writer or blogger or just starting out, get ready to take your writing to the next level. 

 

1. Spot and Correct Errors

 

It may seem obvious that catching and correcting errors is a vital part of self-editing, but many writers overlook these mistakes in the rush to convert ideas into prose. Poorly written sentences, incorrect punctuation, and misspelled words can detract from the reader’s ability to understand your writing and reduce your credibility. By carefully reviewing your work, you can catch errors instead of leaving them for readers to find. 

An easy way to notice issues is reading your writing aloud. Better yet, have your computer read it to you. Hearing rather than reading makes awkward phrasing, missing words, and other issues stand out. 

Another strategy involves taking a break so you can return to your work with clear eyes and a fresh outlook. You might gain a new perspective and catch mistakes you overlooked before.

Although there is more to self-editing than finding errors in punctuation, spelling, and grammar, identifying them can have a massive effect on the quality of your work.

Error-free writing appears polished and professional, which makes the reading experience more satisfying. Happy readers are more engaged and more likely to share your creations with others.

 

2. Enhance Your Writing Style

 

To truly transform your writing, you need to move beyond error-correction and enhance your style. You do that by taking a critical look at sentence structure, word choice, and tone.

It’s not a coincidence that the best writers are well-read. You can do the same. Read widely and notice which writers express their ideas in a style you admire. Without plagiarizing content, incorporate some of their techniques into your own work.

Experiment with various sentence structures and play with the wording to make your writing more engaging and dynamic. Aim for articles or chapters that not only flow smoothly but captivate readers from beginning to end.

 

3. Improve the Flow of Your Story

To captivate your readers, start with excellent grammar and punctuation. Then develop a writing style that flows effortlessly. Scrutinize your sentence structure, select words that express your meaning, and craft sentences that set the right tone.

If you read highly rated books in different genres, you can observe how the authors maintain the flow of their stories. If you’re a content creator, read blog posts and articles on a variety of topics. Experiment with the sentence structures and techniques you discover.

But what does “flow” mean? A book that flows smoothly allows readers to fully immerse themselves in the story and become invested in the characters. Reading a polished article or blog post feels effortless and encourages readers to absorb the message.

 

4. Maintain Your Unique Voice

A smooth flow helps readers glide through a story or message without distraction, but it’s your unique voice that sets your writing apart from the books and articles created by other writers.

Your voice intertwines with your style, offering a glimpse into your personality and unique way of expressing ideas. It’s the secret ingredient that makes your writing authentic and relatable. 

As you self-edit, ensure that your prose remains true to your voice. If editing makes your writing sound stiff or forced, switch tactics. Keep your originality intact and make sure your writing reflects your personal style. Instead of viewing the editing process with grim determination, approach it with a playful attitude. Experiment with words. Search for synonyms—the more outrageous the better. If the result is over the top, take it down a notch.

 

5. Over-Editing

The potential for your writing to become stiff or forced can be the effect of over-editing, a common occurrence when the process becomes too intense, or when perfection sets in. If you feel you’re losing your personal voice and style, take a step back.

Create a balance between making necessary edits while maintaining your authenticity. Perfection in writing is a myth, so don’t become stuck in a loop of endless edits. Prioritize what needs to be fixed and let the rest remain as it is.

A good way to strike a healthy balance is to set the edit aside for a few days. The read through it and mark any obvious issues. Fix those and call it good.

 

6. Make Self-Editing a Habit

Self-editing is like any repeated task. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Once editing becomes a habit, you’ve reached mastery status. Instead of a dreaded task that’s tacked on to the end of your writing routine, self-editing will become an integral part of your creative process.

At that point, you’ll find and fix errors while you’re writing. It will become second nature, and you won’t have to sweat over every issue you find. You’ll correct it and move on.

When you integrate self-editing into your creation process, you’ll pick up on any bad habits that may be hindering your progress and handle them before they become entrenched. You’ll also be able to spot inconsistencies or issues with flow immediately, which will save time and effort in the future.

Another benefit of making self-editing a habit is writing more efficiently. You will no longer waste time second-guessing every edit, wondering which version is best. That’s because habits help you develop instinct. Instinct helps you work faster and more economically, which is especially helpful when you’re working on a tight deadline.

The Case for Transforming Your Writing Through Self-Editing

Once you’ve adopted self-editing as a tool to help you reach your literary goals, a world of possibilities will open. By catching and correcting errors, enhancing your writing style, improving flow, maintaining your distinctive voice, finding a balance between excellence and over-editing, and making self-editing a habit, your writing will rise to the next level.

Make self-editing a routine, and always be ready to experiment with different techniques. Your job as a writer is to get your story or message out of your head. Your job as a self-editor is to clear away the debris and organize the rest so the beauty of your creation can shine through.

To quote writer, journalist, photographer, and librarian Arthur Polotnik, “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”  

Seven Common Errors
The FREE Guide to Finding & Fixing Seven Common Writing Issues
How Do I Choose the Best Type of Editor for My Book?

How Do I Choose the Best Type of Editor for My Book?

If you are looking for a quick and easy answer to the question posed by the title of this post, the answer is you.”

Perhaps that seems unlikely at this moment, but one day you could become the best editor for your book. After all, who knows the story, the characters, and the message better than you do? We’ll discuss this option (self-editing) a bit later.

For now, let’s talk about professional editors, the people who polish prose for a living. I know a bit about them, as I’ve been an editor for more than twenty-five years. A good pro can work wonders with your manuscript and become a valuable ally in your quest for a book so good readers will thank you for writing it.

What Do Professional Editors Do?

While all editors strive to make your manuscript the best it can be, there are many ways to achieve that goal. Here is where the issue gets complicated. No definitive, widely accepted list exists to define the types of editing available and what each type involves.

The editing police will not arrest or fine editors for misrepresenting the type of editing they perform. Professional editors are free to determine (and name) the type of editing they do.

On my editing site, WriteFriend.com, I simplified the process for prospective clients by offering book editing and business editing. If you’re interested in book editing, you can choose between done-for-you editing and collaborative editing. If you’re a business client, you’ll see a list of the types of business editing I’ve done. I invite potential clients into a discussion to determine the most beneficial type and amount of editing for their budget, timeframe, and goals. Then I discuss how I can help them achieve those goals. No fancy editing terminology is needed.

About now, you may be wondering why a professional editor would promote self-editing. Here are the short answers:

  1. Knowing whether self-editing is a good choice for you requires an understanding of the alternatives.
  2. No matter how skilled you become at self-editing, you are likely to need (or want) to hire a professional editor in the future.

Now let’s look at the alternatives to self-editing.

Content Editor

Editing Categories

Editors, book publishers, and career authors are familiar—to varying degrees—with the types of professional editing available. They may not agree on what to call each type of editing, but they know what to expect and when each type of editing will produce the best result.

During my years as an editor, I’ve incorporated many types of editing. I provide what my clients need to achieve the best results, often combining several types and levels. It’s a personal method that works for me, and it seems to work for my clients. When explaining editing options, I find it easier to discuss functions rather than types, grouping them into four categories based on the process and goal: conceptual editing, content editing, technical editing, and proofreading.

If you’re a beginning writer or an experienced writer who plans to publish a book for the first time, awareness of these categories can help you navigate the confusing sea of editing options.

The first, and possibly most important, piece of information to absorb is this: Avoid over-editing. Unless your career plan involves becoming a prolific author with dozens of best-selling books to your credit, focus on the basics first.

In the descriptions that follow, we’ll discover those basics.

Category 1: Conceptual Editing

  • Conceptual editing
  • Manuscript critique
  • Manuscript evaluation
  • Developmental editing
  • Structural editing

Conceptual editing is both a category and a type of editing. It takes a high-level look at your draft or manuscript, focusing on structure, flow, readability, and completeness. 

At the end of a conceptual edit, you’ll typically receive a written report that describes potential issues and provides actionable suggestions for improvement.

For new writers or for authors switching to an unfamiliar genre, this type of edit provides valuable feedback.

Conceptual editing may also be referred to as a manuscript critique, manuscript evaluation, or developmental editing.

Structural editing also takes a broad view. As the name implies, this type of editing focuses on the structure of a manuscript, including the number and length of the chapters, plus the total number of pages in the book. The editor ensures that the overall content aligns with your objectives and that it zones in on what your target audience wants to read. The editor may suggest additional content to include in the manuscript.

Note: As traditional publishing gives way to self-publishing, additional types of editing have popped up, such as the recently coined term book shepherding. Experienced professional editors may take on the role of book shepherd to guide new writers from draft to print, either doing the editing themselves or directing the author to appropriate professionals.

Category 2: Content Editing

  • Content editing
  • Line editing
  • Substantive editing
  • Developmental editing
  • Full editing
  • Stylistic editing
  • Comprehensive editing

Content editing, as you may have gathered from the title, focuses on the content in a manuscript (versus the mechanics of language). Content editors work on the structure of a manuscript and focus on flow, tone, pacing, dialogue, point of view, and completeness.

They may rearrange chapters, sections, and/or paragraphs and point out plot holes or issues with character development. Unlike conceptual editing, content editing involves hands-on changes by the editor.

Line editing involves a sentence-level focus. The editor assesses the power and meaning of each sentence and makes changes to improve word choice, flow, tone, style, voice, clarity, tense, and pacing. Cliches, repetition, redundancy, sentence fragments, wordiness, and awkward constructions are targeted for rewrites. This type of editing strengthens, tightens, and clarifies the wording in your manuscript, which in turn improves your readers’ experience.

Substantive, developmental, full, stylistic, and comprehensive editing are terms that describe similar types of content editing.

Category 3: Technical Editing

  • Technical editing
  • Copyediting
  • Mechanical editing

Technical editing involves a detailed word-by-word edit at the technical level. The most well-known version of this type of edit is copyediting (note that The Chicago Manual of Style recently sanctioned the one-word version of this term, but some editors may prefer to write it as “copy editing”).

Copyeditors provide some feedback on content and word usage and may venture into a bit of rewriting, but the main focus remains on the details. Consistency, coherency, spelling, grammar, capitalization, dialogue tags, numbers-versus-numerals, syntax, and hyphenation are the primary targets. Fact-checking may be included.

Mechanical editing also takes a close look at punctuation, capitalization, and spelling, but the primary focus for mechanical editors is adherence to the preferred style guide for the manuscript, such as The Chicago Manual of Style, Associated Press Stylebook, or the in-house style guide for the author’s preferred publisher.

Category 4: Not-Quite Editing

  • Proofreading
  • Beta readers

The final editing category isn’t really editing, which is why I term it “not-quite” editing. It involves two separate but equally valuable types of editorial reviews.

Proofreading is a natural part of editing but is not considered editing per se. Proofreading serves as the last pass for a manuscript and may not occur until the book designer has created the layout design and applied it to the manuscript. The proofread is often performed on a PDF version of the manuscript or on a hard copy of the final layout.

Proofreaders spot inconsistencies and errors that the editor(s) missed and any formatting errors that might have been introduced during the layout process. They include problems with typography, word breaks, captions, page numbers, typos, headlines, inconsistencies in the table of contents, and errors in text on the back or front covers. Some proofreaders will also catch spelling errors, errors in abbreviations, and punctuation problems.

While some editors include a final proofread after content and/or mechanical edits, many authors, publishers, and editors prefer to separate the editing and proofreading processes.

Beta readers comprise a unique non-editing review force. Beta readers are to content what proofreaders are to layout and precision. Beta readers notice and report on plot holes, logic lapses, awkward transitions, issues with pacing and flow, and problems with readability. They may also notice technical issues, but they do so from a broader perspective.

While a beta reader can contribute to the quality of a manuscript at any point, their work is most effective in the early stages, ideally before the process reaches the proofing phase. When considering a beta reader, select someone with experience reading the genre of book you’ve written if you want the best results. Avoid recruiting a beta reader from your personal group of friends and relatives, as they are unlikely to provide an objective review.

Choosing the Right Editor for Your Needs

Because so much overlap exists between the types of editing and the terms editors use to describe their work, the first step involves assessing at what point you need help. Knowing what you need depends on where you are in the writing process and your goals as a writer.

What is your goal?

  1. Do you want to learn if your book idea or initial draft is readable/publishable?
    If so, find an experienced conceptual editor.
  2. Do you want to publish your first book on your own as quickly as possible?
    If so, self-edit and then hire a proofreader.
  3. Do you want to submit a polished manuscript to a book agent or traditional publisher?
    If so, hire a content editor, technical editor, and proofreader, in that order.
  4. Do you want to become a best-selling author with a long list of books under your byline?
    If so, first become a capable self-editor and then find a dependable content/technical editor and proofreader.
  5. Do you want to excel at the craft of writing so you can expand your options for a career as an author?
    If so, learn to be a competent and confident self-editor, which will make you a better writer.

Where you are in the writing process?

  1. Do you have an idea and rough outline but no draft?
    If so, consider conceptual editing.
  2. Do you have a completed but unedited draft?
    If so, start with conceptual editing and move on to content editing after updating your manuscript.
  3. Do you have a draft that has been through several revisions?
    If so, you’re probably ready for content editing, followed by technical editing and proofreading.
  4. Do you have a draft that has been through at least one professional (non-technical) edit?
    If so, you’re ready for technical editing followed by proofreading.
  5. Do you have a well-edited manuscript ready for the final steps?
    If so, it’s time for a thorough proofread.

If I Choose to Hire an Editor, How Do I Find the Right One?

Most of my clients come to me through referrals, which I consider the optimum method for both the editor and the prospective client. If someone you know and trust tells you an editor did a great job on a project, that editor will most likely produce good results for you as well.

If you don’t know anyone who has hired an editor, go shopping online. When you find a promising website, contact the editor and request a sample edit. Some editors offer a free editing sample, while others charge a fee. A sample edit is the most reliable way to know in advance how a given editor will handle your manuscript. You’ll also get an idea of how well the two of you might work together.

How Do I Learn to Self-Edit?

I’m glad you asked. That is, after all, the focus of this website. The Prepare for Self-Editing Success guide is a great place to start. It offers a step-by-step process that you can customize to suit your needs. Fill out the form below to get your free guide!