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Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: 10 Top Tips

Congratulations, you've completed a manuscript! Now, it's time to edit

The editing process involves several steps, and it's a lot more than just fixing grammar and spelling

If you're looking for practical advice about editing your own work, you've come to the right place

Today, we're providing you with 10 great tips for self-editing for fiction writers, so you can take your

Notice any consistency issues, and try to see what your biggest weaknesses are

You might accidentally change something in your first read-through that affects something else further along in the

Once you've read your entire manuscript, I always suggest letting it simmer for a few days

This gives you time to think through any major plot issues or character problems before you dive

But it's best to avoid small mistakes at first for a few reasons

Second, you might edit a grammar error or change a word in a sentence that gets rewritten

Then you've done unnecessary editing and created more work for yourself

As a fiction writer, I always describe the editing process as a funnel: start big, then get

Self-editing specifically for major weaknesses can help you focus on improving those areas

Whatever your weakness is, you've probably made many of the same mistakes throughout your story

You'll be surprised by how much cleaner your manuscript is after fixing it

If you have two major things that you struggle with, do a second deep edit for the

You'll get some of the best writing advice from other writers who are familiar with your writing

As fiction writers, we get excited about the world building and backstory we've spent so much time

Info-dumps are long paragraphs where you tell the reader lots of information

This might be an overly long description of a setting or magic system, some bit of history

Ask yourself if the details are actually pertinent to the story, and be honest with yourself!

Some exposition is necessary, and different genres have different standards for info-dumping

Fantasy and sci-fi, for example, commonly have longer-winded descriptions and explanations

But, when you can, include some of those details in between action

Copy and paste them into another document, a world building app, or a book bible

We want readers to experience our stories, and we do that through using strong descriptions of the

Try to include at least three of the five senses in every scene

For example, instead of saying "said quietly," say "murmur" or "whisper

You can get help self-editing for sensory detail and distancing language with ProWritingAid's Sensory Report

It's important to pay close attention to dialogue when you self-edit

Bad dialogue is a quick way to pull readers out of your story

But what is bad dialogue? Dialogue that sounds unnatural is one of the most common mistakes writers

Including too many dialect terms or accented pronunciations is another way that dialogue can sound weak

You shouldn’t have a character give a long-winded explanation to another character without breaking the dialogue

Speaking of dialogue tags (phrases like "he said, she yelled, etc

Some people say to avoid any dialogue tags that aren’t "say" or "said," because other words

Instead of saying a character "said (something) sadly," you can say they "buried their head in their

Just run the Dialogue Report! You'll find how many dialogue tags are in your writing, along with

This will help you find weak spots to add action beats and power verbs

Repeated sentence starts is another common mistake that creeps up on writers

Repeated sentence starts are especially common in action-packed scenes when you describe what your characters are doing

When you're self-editing, try not to have more than two repeated sentence starts in a row

Then, change up your syntax to improve the flow of your writing

Grammar, spelling, and mechanical errors are normally fixed during the proofreading stage, but you can still work

Here's why you want to wait until you've edited everything else

If you edit for spelling and grammar during the earlier editing phases, you are likely proofreading things

You're also paying closer attention to mechanics than bigger issues that need to be fixed

Additionally, you’ve probably edited in grammar errors as you've added and changed sentences

But ProWritingAid has reports that help with most of these self-editing steps

The Pacing Report helps point out paragraphs with slow pacing

And there are several other reports that will help with the self-editing process

But rather than running each report independently, you can create your own Combo Report

Then from the main editor all you have to do is click "Combo

Every time I edit one of my novels, I'm surprised by how many mistakes that my editor,

It's normal to overlook things when you spend so much time staring at the same story

I have found at least one mistake in every book I've ever read

You can either read it to yourself or have a computer program read it to you

You'll also notice small inconsistencies, such as a character's eye color changing or a setting description that

Grab a large cup of water if you're reading it yourself (reading an entire book out loud

Give yourself plenty of time before your publication date to improve your manuscript

Writing a novel is hard work, but it isn't over when you finish the first draft

Sign up today to use the Sensory Report, Dialogue Report, and more