Self-editing is time consuming and can be frustrating; however once you’ve completed your story it’s a necessary next step to making it amazing. Once you’ve had time away from your manuscript, go through it several times for flow and story arcs then you’re ready for the next steps.
Find more than one person who is willing to read through your story and provide useable input about it. This should be people you trust, though it’s best to avoid family and close friends, and try to choose people who are familiar with your genre and are avid readers. Having someone who’s a writer to look at your work is also a good idea, if it’s an option.
Give them questions to focus on specific areas such as the opening, story arc, theme, character arcs, setting, world building or even dialogue. Take note of the suggestions that are made, especially if more than one critic makes the same comment, but don’t feel compelled to use all of them if they don’t fit your style or the message you’re trying to convey. Remember, it’s your story and you have to stay true to your vision.
There are a few errors that everyone, at some point, has made. Who vs whom; then vs than; they’re vs there vs their. Use the ‘find and replace’ as it can be very useful and save you a lot of time. You may want to take note of any words or phrases you tend to repeat. I could be ‘she gasped’ or ‘he smirked’, but it isn’t unusual to not realize you’re repeating these sayings without even being aware. So when combing through your work try to take note of these and ask your readers to let you know if they notice any as well.
When you’re writing be aware of details that will be referred to again at some point in the story. These details involving character, setting and backstory and need to be consistent or you will confuse your readers and pull them out of the story.
It’s easy to flip from present to past tense and back again. So when you’re doing your edits be sure to read your story out loud. When you hear it you will be more likely to catch these slips.
It is essential is describe a new location or the physical appearance of a character so your reader is able to visualize it. How much you say about it comes back to your style and genre, however a lot can be revealed in a few well worded sentences. The more important the character, the more description you need to add, however be careful about dumping all at once. Spread the details out so the reader can build up a picture as they read.
Though it is tempting to cut conversations and summarize through narration, this can be a big mistake. You want to engage the reader and dialogue is a great way to develop your characters through internal and external voice that can have the person on the page become someone real to your reader.
Taking your time to edit your novel in a thorough way will build your story into a well pruned story that comes across as not repetitive or overwritten, but tight and engaging.