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The Essential Guide to Self-Editing Your Manuscript - Explained by a Book Editor in the UK



Professional book editor in the UK gives step-by-step process to self-editing your manuscript!


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 of your manuscript, 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 before handing it over to a professional book editor? What if you turn it into even more of a mess than before you started? What if you end up editing it 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 likely overload your brain with too much to focus on, and you'll likely 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 more work and stress when it's really unnecessary?

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

Book Editing Services UK | Book Editing Service UK

Section 1: 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 most 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.


Why?


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 I'd save yourself the frustration as well.


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


Well, firstly, developmental editing, which is also called content editing, focuses on the actual story, tackling the overall structure, the plot & subplots, the characters & their development, plus the dialogue, voice and POV.


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 a easier and therefore a little more exciting, I'm going to give you the very checklist I use when carrying out a developmental edit on a client's manuscript, so feel free to use it for yourself.

Developmental Editing Services UK | Content Editing Services UK

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.


Structure:

  • 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?

  • Is there a prologue or epilogue? If so, are they needed?

  • Does the story start in the right place?

  • Does the word count match the genre?

Plot:

  • 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?

  • Does the plot match the type of structure chosen for the story? (E.g., three-act structure, hero's journey, etc.)

Subplots:

  • 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?

  • Are the subplots a cliche, such as the love triangle trope in a YA paranormal romance?

  • Will the subplots interest the target audience?

Characters:

  • Are the characters three-dimensional?

  • Are the characters believable, relatable and realistic?

  • Will the reader instantly know what each character wants? Is their ultimate goal clear enough?

  • Is each character consistent throughout?

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

Dialogue:

  • 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?

Voice:

  • Is the narration clear and easy-to-follow throughout?

  • Is the voice consistent, such as remaining formal or casual all the way through?

  • Does the voice suit the genre and target audience?

  • Does the narration match the protagonist if they're the ones telling the story?

  • Could anything be improved to make the overall voice better?

POV:

  • Is the POV used consistently, such as using one perspective throughout?

  • Does the POV work well or could it be altered for improvement?

  • Is the POV appropriate for the genre and target audience?

  • Are there parts where the POV shifts unintentionally?

  • Would the story work better from a different perspective, such as an omniscient narrator rather than the main character?

It's up to you how you use these questions when you're 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 within your story under each one.


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

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.

Line Editing Services UK | Line Editing Service UK

Section 2: Line or Copy Editing


Call me a nerd, but I love giving a client's manuscript a good line/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!


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 I have a separate post here all about the main differences between them!


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


My Line Editing Checklist

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

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

  • Clarity - Are there any sentences or paragraphs that don't make sense?

  • Consistency - Is everything consistent throughout? (e.g., names, capitalisation, descriptions etc.)

  • Descriptions - Are there any sentences that tell rather than show?

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

  • Flow - Does the story flow naturally? Is it easy to read?

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

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

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

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

  • Punctuation - Is each punctuation mark correctly placed?

  • Repetition - Are there any sentences, paragraphs, descriptions, scenes or chapters that are 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?

  • Tense - Is the overall tense consistent throughout? (i.e., written in first person all the way through). Is the tense in each sentence consistent?

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

Copy Editing Services UK | Copy Editing Service UK

My Copy Editing Checklist

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

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

  • Clarity - Are there any sentences or paragraphs that don't make sense?

  • Consistency - Is everything consistent throughout? (e.g., names, capitalisation, descriptions etc.)

  • Descriptions - Are there any sentences that tell rather than show?

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

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

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

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

  • Punctuation - Is each punctuation mark correctly placed?

  • Repetition - Are there any sentences, paragraphs, descriptions, scenes or chapters that are 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?

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

Other editors may list their services differently to me, but my line editing service basically provides writers with a full copy editing service while also focusing on any issues within 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, I would definitely carry out a line edit for yourself just so you cover as much as possible. Right, now for the third and final round!

Book Proofreading Services UK | Proofreading Services UK

My Proofreading Checklist

I've recently learnt that 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 typos or spelling 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've 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's the list I use when I'm 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 all the way through.)

  • Grammar - Are there any grammar issues within the copy of 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?

After you've completed all three rounds - developmental editing, line/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 book 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.


Once you've finished the self-editing process and are ready to hire a professional book editor, check out my editorial services here and get in touch!


To your highest success,

Chelsea x

 

ABOUT CHELSEA

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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