As a longtime book publishing professional, I’m pretty quick to admit my biases when it comes to best practices in this industry.

If I had a written list, great editing would be at the very top of it. I’m always in favour of editorial work, no matter who the writer is or what length of text you’re working with.

I’ve written previous posts about how to hire an editor and how to understand the different kinds of editing, but I also feel it’s important to consider the benefits of self-editing as a preliminary step – or as the only editorial step in cases where a professional editor isn’t involved.

Most of us find it difficult to edit our own work. We feel too close to it, and we fear we won’t see things that a fresh pair of eyes could easily see. But it’s a critical part of producing polished, professional prose.

 

Here are some expert tips for self-editing that I often recommend to clients:

 

Take a Bird’s-Eye View

Before diving into your prose at a micro level to correct things like punctuation and typos, sit back and read it at least once, all the way through. Consider broad structural issues first. How are your pacing and character development? Is your work well organized? Have you made your central argument effectively and have you backed it up throughout your text? Think about your work like a substantive editor would, and you will immediately see the forest for the trees.

 

Don’t Be a Repeat Offender

Be careful about repeating yourself and watch out for places where you’re restating what you’ve already said – not necessarily in the same words, but with the same meaning. Readers can easily become fatigued if they feel they’ve already gotten the point that you’ve made several times over. This is one of the most common pitfalls for even the most experienced writers.

 

Take Your Expert’s Hat Off

You know your subject area well, and you’re intensely familiar with the issues you’re writing about. That might lead to passages in your work that require more expertise or insight than a reader might reasonably bring to your work. Try to identify places where you’re making assumptions about a reader’s knowledge base, and avoid leaps in logic that the reader might not follow.

 

Following some of the simple steps above can help you produce a stronger book, whether you intend to submit it to an editor or whether you’re moving straight to self-publishing.