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4 Checklists to Make the Self-Editing Process Significantly Easier for Yourself

4 Checklists to Make the Self-Editing Process Easier | Manuscript Editing Services UK

Professional book editor in the UK provides helpful checklists that will make any writer's self-editing process significantly easier!

If you're writing a novel with the hope of getting it published, the self-editing stage will become an inevitable part of the process. I'm sure there's no way you'll be willing to query or publish a first draft, and even if you were, you wouldn't get very far, so I'm 100% certain that you'll carry out at least one round of self-editing.

However, you're a writer because you love to write and tell stories, right? So how the heck do you edit the damn book yourself? What if it becomes even messier than before you started? What if you end up editing over and over again with no visible improvement?

I hear you, and with a saturated market that makes it almost impossible to stand out as an author, especially a new one, I understand your worries. Plus, we're all so busy these days with our 9-5 jobs, education, families and commitments, so how is anyone supposed to self-edit thousands of words quickly but effectively?

Well, here's the trick - you divide the self-editing process into three sections.

Section 1: Developmental Editing.

Section 2: Line/Copy Editing.

Section 3: Proofreading.

You may initially think that splitting the self-editing process into three parts will take you even longer than if you cram each type of editing into one round, but if you try to do it all at once, you'll overload your brain with too much to focus on, and you'll miss parts that may need special attention.

As a result, you'll end up wasting your time.

Besides, why would you want to give yourself unnecessary work and stress?

So, with all that being said, let's start with section one.

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Developmental Editing

If a literary agent ever accepts your manuscript for representation and you gain the privilege to have your work professionally edited for free, the development of your story will be tackled first, so it's more logical to start there.

You may be tempted to tweak the development as you see fit, but you'll save yourself a significant amount of time and stress if you get it done at the beginning.


Well, what's the point in line or copy editing your work if you're just going to cut and add things anyway? I'd be so annoyed with myself if I spent the entire day editing a chapter that wasn't needed in the end, so save yourself the frustration as well.

Anyway, what exactly is developmental editing and how do you do it?

Firstly, developmental editing, also called content editing sometimes, focuses on the story side of your novel, tackling the overall structure, the plot & subplots, the characters & their development, their dialogue, POV, and voice.

If you skip the developmental editing stage, you could end up with a book that's full of plot holes, flat characters and a structure that's all over the place, so it's super important that you spend a considerable amount of time reviewing and revising the content of your novel.

A considerable amount of time?

I know, you probably don't believe that your story needs any work at all - it's brilliant, right? - so the idea of looking for issues likely sounds dull and near-on impossible. BUT... to make the process easier and a little more exciting, I'm going to give you the very checklist I use when carrying out a developmental edit for my clients, so feel free to use it for yourself.

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My Developmental Editing Checklist

Again, like the entire self-editing process, I break the developmental editing stage into different sections, which each have various questions within.


  • Is the entire novel structured properly? Does the story follow a specific structure? E.g., the three-act structure, the hero's journey, etc.

  • Does the structure suit the genre and target audience?

  • Are the chapters similar in length?

  • Does the story start in the right place?

  • Does the word count match the genre?


  • Is the plot enjoyable and gripping?

  • Is the plot suitable for the genre and target audience?

  • Is the plot well-structured and paced properly?

  • Are there any plot holes?

  • Are the major plot points gripping and satisfying?


  • Are the subplots relevant to the main plot?

  • Do the subplots enhance the story and captivate the audience?

  • Are the subplots resolved and tied up at the end?

  • Do the subplots make sense, and are they believable?

  • Will readers care about the subplots as much as the main story?


  • Are the characters three-dimensional?

  • Are the characters believable, relatable and realistic?

  • Will the reader instantly know what each character wants?

  • Is each character consistent throughout?

  • Are the characters described in enough/too much detail?


  • Is the dialogue interesting and easy-to-follow?

  • Does the dialogue advance the plot and is each line relevant to the story?

  • Could you open the book on any page and instantly know who's speaking just by reading the dialogue?

  • Does the dialogue and word choices suit the genre and target audience?


  • Does the POV remain consistent throughout, or does the story jump from third to first-person perspective?

  • Does 'headhopping' occur a lot throughout?

  • If written in first-person, does the POV stick with that one character's perspective or do some parts accidentally switch to an omniscient viewpoint?

  • If multiple POVs are involved, does the narration differ between them to help differentiate between each character?

  • Would the POV be better written from first-person, third-person limited or third-person omniscient?


  • Is the narrative voice consistent throughout or are there inconsistencies that could be fixed, such as accents, slang, dialect and style, if written in the first-person.

  • Does the voice match the mood and tone of each chapter, and the overall story?

  • Does the voice suit the genre of the novel?

  • Does the voice fit the characters, especially the main protagonist?

It's up to you how you use these questions when carrying out a developmental edit - I simply just keep them by my side as a reminder of what possible issues I'm looking for in the manuscript, but you could turn the questions into subheadings and bullet point the various problems under each one.

However, I find it much easier to write comments in the actual manuscript, then my clients know the exact place I'm referring to, but if you're editing your own novel, you may not feel the need to do that.

Saying that, it could be a good way to put some distance between yourself and your story - edit as if it's someone else's, using Tracked Changes and adding comments throughout. If you're really dedicated, you could even write yourself an editorial report, or at least bullet point the areas that need work.

So, once you've taken the time to rip your story apart and piece it back together again, it's time to move onto the second round.

A Self-Editing Checklist for Writers

Line or Copy Editing

Call me a nerd, but I LOVE giving a client's manuscript a good line or copy edit - I find it incredibly satisfying to see red Tracked Changes everywhere, knowing that when the writer implements my edits, the manuscript will shine brighter than before!

However, I also understand that line and copy editing isn't the easiest task in the world, with some people getting confused between the two, but the main difference between them is that line editing is heavier, and copy editing is lighter, but I'll go into more detail in the checklists below.

So, to make sure you're completely clear on the differences AND that you know what to look for when line or copy editing, here's the list I use when working on a client's novel.

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My Line Editing Checklist

Although line editing is always considered the heavier version of copy editing, there are a few differences in what each service entails.

While my line editing service covers everything included within my copy editing service, the former focuses more on how the same things affect the flow, mood, and tone of the text, whereas the latter concentrates on the technical side of things - e.g., if the grammar and syntax is correct.

Take a peek at the questions I use for line editing:

  • Active vs Passive Voice - Even if active voice is preferred in fiction writing, which voice would flow better and enhance the tone?

  • Clarity - Are there any sentences or paragraphs that don't make sense? Could certain sentences or paragraphs be written in a different way to improve the flow?

  • Consistency - Is everything consistent throughout or are there aspects that contradict each other, stunting the flow of the story?

  • Descriptions - Are there any sentences that tell rather than show? If so, does it need to be tackled or does the description in question make sense to tell rather than show? Are there any descriptions that are too short, preventing the reader from envisioning a full picture, or too long, causing the reader to tune out? Does each description fit the mood and tone of each scene?

  • Flow - Does each sentence, paragraph and chapter flow into each other smoothly or are there sections that are awkward and clunky?

  • Lengthy Sentences - If there are lengthy sentences within the story, are they too long that they need to be cut, or do they fit the consistency of the rest of the novel? If the lengthy sentences ramble a little, does it fit the overall mood, tone and flow of the story? For example, consider The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - some argue that Holden Caulfield rambled too much about nothing, but others argue that this fits with his character.

  • Mood and Tone - Does the mood match the characters' emotions and work well in each scene? Does the author's tone suit each scene and the mood of the characters? Are there any parts that don't work?

  • New Lines & Paragraphs - Are there any instances where the writer needs to start a new paragraph to help the flow of the story? Alternatively, are there any instances where a scene break needs to be cut to improve the flow? Are there paragraphs that could be merged?

  • Punctuation - Could excess punctuation be cut to aid in a smoother reading experience? Could punctuation be added to sentences where it's lacking to assist with the flow?

  • Repetition - Repetition is often avoided, but if repetition arises, does it fit with the context of the story and style of writing? Has the repetition been used on purpose to create an effect, or does it need to be cut to prevent jarring sentences?

  • Syntax - Are there any sentences that could be reworded or restructured to prevent awkwardness or clunkiness? In contrast, could clunky syntax makes sense for a specific reason, e.g., due to a certain character's narrating style, or due to the time period in which the novel is set.

  • Tense - Is the overall tense consistent throughout? Does the tense flow well?

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Copy Editing

  • Active vs Passive Voice - Are there any passive sentences that would sound or work better written in the active voice, and vice versa?

  • Capitalisation - Are the right words capitalised throughout? Is the capitalisation consistent? (e.g., Wi-Fi, 1pm, and Chelsea spelled in these ways all the way through.)

  • Clarity - Are there any sentences or paragraphs that just don't make sense? How could they be fixed?

  • Consistency - Is everything consistent throughout? (e.g., names, capitalisations, magic rules in fantasy novels, character backstory, etc.)

  • Factual Accuracy - Are there any facts or statistics that are incorrect or aren't referenced properly?

  • Grammar - Are there any grammar issues within the novel?

  • Lengthy Sentences - Are there any sentences that are too long and could be cut? Are there any lines that ramble too much?

  • New Lines & Paragraphs - Are there any instances where the writer needs to start a new paragraph? Are there paragraphs that could be merged together?

  • Punctuation - Is each punctuation mark correctly placed?

  • Repetition - Are there any sentences, paragraphs, descriptions, scenes or chapters that are wrongly repeated at any point throughout the novel?

  • Spelling - Is everything spelled correctly throughout? Is each spelling consistent? (e.g., the spelling of colour throughout.)

  • Syntax - Are there any sentences that could be reworded or restructured to make more technical sense?

  • Typos - Are there any visible typos to be fixed?

Other book editors may list their services differently to me, but my line editing service provides writers with a full copy editing service while also focusing on the flow, mood, tone and tense, so whichever one (line or copy) you decide to do depends on how much work you think your manuscript needs.

However, if you're unsure but feeling confident, definitely carry out a line edit just so you cover as much as possible.

Right, now for the third and final round!

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Many writers still think that proofreading covers everything and polishes a manuscript like line editing, and others believe that proofreading is pointless if you've done a line or copy edit - both are false assumptions, and here's why.

Firstly, proofreading is the last step before publication, so it's designed to catch any last minute errors that may have slipped through the net, so no, you shouldn't begin with proofreading if you're self-editing or hiring a professional editor.

Secondly, a final proofread of your work could be the difference between a dozen typos and punctuation errors and none at all, so it's always best to give your manuscript a proofread after you have completed the other types of editing.

So, if proofreading doesn't polish your manuscript like a line or copy edit, but it's not pointless, what issues does it fix?

Here is the list I use when proofreading a client's manuscript, so feel free to use it as a guide for yourself.

  • Capitalisation - Are the right words capitalised throughout? Is the capitalisation consistent? (e.g., Wi-Fi, 1pm, Chelsea all spelled the same all the way through.)

  • Grammar - Are there any grammar issues within the novel?

  • Punctuation - Is each punctuation mark correctly placed?

  • Spelling - Is everything spelled correctly throughout? Is each spelling consistent? (e.g., the spelling of colour throughout.)

  • Typos - Are there any visible typos to be fixed?

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After you have completed all three rounds - developmental editing, line editing, copy editing and proofreading - you'll end up with a manuscript that's in a much better shape than before and therefore ready for beta readers, critique partners and professional editors.

You may then have to repeat certain parts of the editing process once you've received feedback and professional edits, but breaking the self-editing stage into three sections like this will put you one step closer to publication much faster and more efficiently.

I really hope this post helped you with your self-editing journey! And remember: even after you've self-edited your manuscript 10 times, you'll still always benefit from a professional book editor, so keep me in mind for when you're ready! :)

Speak soon,

Chelsea x



Book Editors UK

Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!

With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!


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