Editing Your Writing

When working on your manuscript, we recommend writing the whole book or at least complete chapters before you start editing your writing. Yet that can be hard to do. You open the document to begin writing, a phrase catches your eye and before you know it, you’re re-reading the whole page and tinkering with the text. However, if your book isn’t finished yet, it’s far more productive to force yourself to open a blank page and get going with writing. Then save the editing until a batch of writing is complete. Talking to creative writing tutor and editor, Lesley Hart and some of our authors, we gathered our top tips for self-editing once your book is finished:

Scan your writing for crutch phrases

Crutch phrases are those common sentence starters which we often use when talking. When they appear too frequently, they can be annoying to your readers, breaking the flow of your story. Every writer has a tendency to use one or two of them repeatedly in their writing. You might be guilty of dropping these into your work, so scan through the pages and look out for these:

  • At the end of the day...
  • By the way...
  • In all honesty...
  • Therefore or so that...
  • It just so happens...
  • Obviously...
  • Basically...
  • Actually...
  • Well...
  • You know...
  • As a matter of fact...
  • Seriously...
  • Literally...
  • In order to...
  • Therefore...
  • However...

Yes, your word count could drop when you edit these phrases out, but your writing will be much better for it. Lesley points out that shorter sentences work well for younger readers, and that’s true too for some adult readers, and some genres of book. If you want to speed up the pace of your story and make it action-packed, short sentences work best.

Tweak chunky descriptive paragraphs

Part of the magic of reading a book is the way our imagination works when there are no pictures. In his book, On Writing, Stephen King talks about the importance of keeping description brief. So, if you find yourself rambling on about your characters, have another look at how you can develop the characters without so much physical description. Another way of adding more information about your characters is to use dialogue with another character to give clues as to how they feel and behave.

Check whether all your characters are essential to the story

Lesley advises that for each character, think about their role in your story and what personality traits they need in order to be believable. Ensure all of your characters are necessary and there aren’t too many of them. Although you want to avoid too much description, you do need to explore their inner workings in addition to their appearance.

Use the 'Find and Replace’ function with great care

One way to refine your writing is to check certain words and replace them with an alternative. To use find and replace on Google Docs, you would use CTRL + H, whereas on Microsoft Word, it’s CTRL + R. However, using the 'find and replace’ function can cause mistakes to creep into your work, if you don’t check the sentences carefully afterwards.

Check for double spaces

One of the common mistakes authors make is slipping double spaces in between their sentences or phrases. This doesn’t matter on the early drafts, but when the book is typeset, they need to be deleted. By carefully checking your text, you’ll save on editing costs.

Use a spell checker and grammar function

Spelling mistakes are easier to spot if you print out your work or change the font size/colour as you read through your manuscript. You don’t need to pay for a tool like Grammarly, but it does help to run the basic spelling and grammar check on your document. GoogleDocs offers a free tool if you want to store your manuscript online as well as on your hard drive.

Find out more

SilverWood works closely with several excellent book coaches, editors and writing mentors. Please get in touch if you’d like us to connect you with a professional who can help you polish and refine your current draft manuscript.



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