Need to edit your own writing? Here’s where to start


Studying to edit your own writing is a necessary a part of each writer’s life.

Even in case you plot each sentence out upfront, you’ll nonetheless want to edit your first full draft to guarantee it’s pretty much as good as it may be. Should you’re extra on the ‘pantser’ finish of writing, enhancing turns into much more important.

I bear in mind the primary time I managed to full a primary draft. It was a 67,000-word romance novel and I assumed it was finished. I had the best variety of phrases, in the best order, and had managed to convey the story collectively right into a passable (comfortable) ending.

I submitted it to Harlequin – and it was summarily rejected.

So I paid to have it assessed and obtained this [summarised] suggestions: “The sex scenes are HOT but it needs a good edit.”

At the moment, I used to be working as a contract author and, to me, enhancing meant tidying up the sentences, ensuring the punctuation was right, and guaranteeing I hadn’t repeated myself. So I did that, and tried once more.


By this stage, I’d taken myself to a Romance Writers of Australia convention and was starting to perceive simply how a lot I didn’t learn about writing romance, particularly, but additionally concerning the artistic writing course of usually.

So I set about studying extra about my craft, writing many extra manuscripts of up to 90,000 phrases. Lastly, I bought one and commenced the method of an expert structural edit.

And that’s after I actually learnt how little I knew about enhancing.

This was not transferring a comma and altering a phrase or two – this was a wholesale upending of the story, asking deep and laborious questions on my character’s motivation and shining a large highlight on each tiny plot gap I’d been satisfied no-one would see.

Modifying may be laborious in case you don’t have a great system

Since that tough and uncomfortable second, I’ve learnt rather a lot about enhancing over (practically) 9 revealed novels, however by no means overpassed how extremely daunting it may be to take a manuscript you’ve accomplished after which take it aside. To shuffle phrases, chapters, concepts and characters round and to realise that your first concepts are usually not essentially your greatest.

The truth is, I’m in the course of the method once more, working by way of the fourth rewrite of a brand new middle-grade manuscript that has not reached the ‘right’ stage simply but. I wrote the draft, requested for suggestions from trusted readers, and rewrote it. After which we did it once more, and once more.

This draft is the toughest as a result of I’ve realised that I’ve been resisting the laborious stuff. My readers have been telling me the story is just not working and I’ve tinkered and tweaked, however I haven’t burnt it down (in locations) and began once more. That’s what I’m doing this time.

However whether or not you’re a primary draft or a 3rd draft, the method stays the identical.

That will help you be taught from my errors, listed here are some ideas to get you began.

1. Learn the entire manuscript.
Regardless of how effectively you suppose you understand your story, learn it once more from start to end – out loud in case you can. Print it out and write on it as you go. Stick post-it notes throughout it. Draw on it in purple pen. You want to get hands-on and soiled with each draft.

2. Write a scene listing.
Write an inventory of each single scene within the manuscript and what occurs. Only a easy overview:
Chapter 1
‘Bob works in the garden’
‘Bob is sent on a quest’.
The purpose of that is to present you a) the pacing of your story (if Bob continues to be working within the backyard in chapter 5, for example, you may want to tighten up your starting) and b) any inconsistencies in your plot (if Bob is distributed on a quest in chapter 1 however is working within the backyard in chapter 3, for example).

3. Give attention to your character.
Your primary character wants to drive your story. Should you introduce your character in chapter one, however then chapters two and three concentrate on the historical past of your kingdom setting, for example, you’ve sidelined the primary story. Be clear in your head about your character’s objectives and motivations after which work by way of your manuscript, guaranteeing they’re clear to the reader.

You’ll at all times hear writers say that distance helps with enhancing – and it’s true. Writing your draft and placing it away permits you to learn it with contemporary eyes. For me, it’s additionally useful to put far between that first learn of the entire manuscript and the second I really dive in and start to transfer issues about.

Should you’re enhancing your own tales and wish a bulletproof system to make sure you’ve polished your story to the absolute best model it may be, take a look at Reduce, Form, Polish. You may entry this course instantly and it’ll assist you establish any structural points and repair them, create a seamless journey for your reader and improve your probabilities of being revealed.

Learn the manuscript, write your scene listing after which enable the entire story to breathe in your thoughts for a short while. It’s wonderful how clear the trail can appear as soon as your unconscious has had time to kick into gear.

Good luck!


Writer bio

Allison Tait is the writer of three epic middle-grade journey sequence for teenagers: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Need To Be A Author podcast, Al’s subsequent middle-grade novel shall be out in July 2023. Discover out extra about her at

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