Novel Editing Tips for Writers Who Hate Self-Editing


Many writers also love editing. But they don’t always love editing their own work.

By the time you’ve finished a long-form writing project, it can feel like you’ve already read the entire thing over and over again a hundred times. To go back and pick it apart seems like a nightmare, doesn’t it?

If you despise self-editing, but still want to touch up your novel (or any project really) before taking your next steps, here are a few tips to help get you through it.

Outline after you’re finished writing

Seems a little backwards, doesn’t it? Aren’t you supposed to outline your story BEFORE you write it?

Well, you can. But some writers don’t like doing that. The benefit of outlining AFTER you’re done writing is that you can use your literary analysis skills on your own story without having too many tenth grade English flashbacks. It helps you pay attention to various elements of your story as a whole rather than focusing too much on small things like spelling.

Use this technique to make sure all your loose ends are tied up. Spelling and grammar can be fixed easily by a copy editor, but if your story has plot holes, it doesn’t stand a chance in the publishing race. Even if your end goal isn’t to get your book published, quality is still important (and essential, if you want anyone to read and enjoy it even just for fun).

Give yourself a wide deadline and take it slow

Editing a book can be overwhelming regardless of the word count. Whether you have a 50,000-word novelette or an 110,000-word monster novel, that’s a lot of words to pick through in any amount of time. You might feel totally motivated at first. You might read and copy edit half your book and then realize you really do hate what you’re doing (it happens). You might just stop.

Give yourself a deadline – a faraway deadline that gives you plenty of room to take things a few pages at a time, if you have to. Work slowly toward that date: there’s no rush. But do your best to work on it a little bit every day, so you’re still making progress, even if it’s gradual. You may not feel like you’re getting anything done. But you’ll be finished before you know it.

Choose what to focus your edits on and stick to it

There’s more than one type of editing when we’re talking novel revisions. You can edit for content (making sure everything makes sense and that every element is consistent). You can edit for flow on a small or large scale (do sentences, paragraphs, chapters, etc. flow smoothly from one to the next?). You can copy edit. You can check your facts (if you did some light research on something scientific but didn’t have time to get into too much detail while writing).

The reason a lot of writers hate self-editing is because they try to do every single type of edit at once. Don’t do that! Pick one, stick with it straight through, take a break and then repeat the process with a different kind of edit. Revisions take a long time. There are multiple rounds to the process. It becomes easier if you take it one thing at a time. Edit spelling and grammar first, if that’s going to prevent you from doing any other kind of edit. Then move on to content. And so on.

You CAN do this. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s time-consuming. You’ll probably end up doing a lot of rewriting, adding, cutting. This is a good thing. Polishing is necessary. No first draft is a “good” draft. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. It means it needs some work, and if you want your book to be the best it can be, you WILL find the strength to push through it all.

Want more novel editing tips? Check out our Five Stress-Free Steps to Revising Your Novel.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.