Reworking Your Work 5 Self-Editing Tips

Now that I’ve rewritten two full books–no, I’m not about to say I’m an expert–I’ve just begun to recognize the process of taking your 15-year-old self’s 2am sleep-drunk ramblings and turning them into a boook (with emphasis on the “ooo”f). I’ve also been working through outlining my series to fit in all the consistency checks I’ve put into books one and two.

So here’s a small list of tricks I’ve picked up in no particular order.

1. Outline EVERYTHING!

I’m a mad plotter. I get my thoughts organized by throwing sentence and grammar out the window, breaking out the bullets and just writing bare bones of what happens. Maybe I get inspired in this process and list some more details, but my goal is to organize sections, actions, and arcs. I also like to color code, especially if I have multiple character perspectives to write in.

I’m a serial head hopper so adding in all the omniscient details including reminders to drop hints that come out more like “But what Luke doesn’t know during the fight is that Vader is his father.” then two bullets down it’s “Vader reveals he’s his dad” Just get all the thoughts out there so you can highlight or strike out everything later.

2. Keep an eye on the broader picture

With my rewrites I’ve spent a lot of time on consistency. I wrote things in the first draft that led to nothing or came out of nowhere and in the rewrite I ensured that things were foreshadowed properly and will remain relevant in later books when they come into play.

For example in the first chapter of FH I draw attention to a window in Mark’s house that doesn’t lock. A lot of early readers gave me feedback that this information wasn’t necessary then realized it was consistent with a reveal later in the book when Mark sneaks in through that window. This is just one small example of stuff I’ve been adding all throughout the books.

As another example, when I wrote the first draft of book 4 I had to ask myself the question “How the heck did Mark not figure this out in book 1” so I went back to FH and added in notes for inserting the infamous Recluse character, thus turning his mystery into a big reveal for later. 😉

3. List your favorite words

One thing I’m guilty of and I’m sure you are too is over using words. Some of them are just awesome words like “disheveled”, but then I end up using them to describe that one thing over and over again. in some cases I use the repetition to draw attention to the thing like “graying hair” and “silver crown” in reference to a character’s hair going white. Notice Me! This Is Important! But other times you gotta cut it.

As I edit I write a list of all the words I think I’ve used before then go through and ctrl+f to see how many times I used it.

4. Go easy on the adverbs

I was always taught to use flowing prose and extra descriptors to get extra points on my creative writing projects for school. And why would you ever use the word “said” when there’s hundreds of more creative words. One of my favorite things to use are all them -ly words.

Unfortunately my editor burst that bubble. Sometimes you want to keep yourself from getting too wordy and dialogue tags can be more of a hindrance to the flow of the scene.

Now that I’m actually looking to purge those -ly words I’ve come to realize how much I rely on them by default without giving it much thought.

5. Be loving to yourself

Going over your mile-long work looking for all the problems with it, and not just the grammatical problems but the narrative ones, can be emotionally hard. This is your baby. And I’m super excited about my work I don’t want to rip it apart. This causes nothing more than procrastination.

Referring to your outline does help, keep an eye on the broader picture and the consistency, to make every scene as airtight as possible. Then slowly narrow your focus.

When I finished rewriting LC I wrote down all the chapter names, described what happens in that chapter in a few words, then I broke down the whole book into five parts with various themes. For each of the parts I talked about what happened, what’s important for the reader to see, and what I want to guide the reader to glean from these chapters. View your book as very small, then you can zoom in.

Once each scene and each chapter captured my vision, I moved in to searching for rogue sentences, typos, and the monotonous stuff. Self-editing can be tiring, but I’ve learned to set goals for myself in order to power through it.

This is the time when I run myself over to Panera, I get myself a scone and some hot tea, and I sit by myself in the cafe to just edit. It really does help with my productivity.

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I understand that you’ve put so much love and hours into your first draft but you’ve probably figured out the first draft is never the last step. This is just the beginning!

I recommend looking up some self-editing techniques and I definitely suggest taking notes on Jenna Moreci’s How to Self-Edit Your Novel video. (get your manuscript “neon as fuck!”) Invest in some sharpies or highlighters, and go nuts.

It goes without saying that I think you should print that sucker out! office stores and libraries often have printers you can use for not a lot of money and I take the oportunity to buy myself a cute binder for it while I’m there. (much to the confusion of the employees when I buy a binder that already has 5 pounds of paper in it.—paper that is often not hole punched and will fall out and WHY DON’T I JUST HOLD THAT FOR YOU WHILE YOU SCAN IT PLEASE DON’T DROP MY MANUSCRIPT!) All jokes aside I love Staples.

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