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How to Self Edit Your Book

The Basics of Self-Editing: How to Do It Yourself

How to Self Edit Your Book

“To write is human, to edit is divine.” – Stephen King

Looking to self-edit your book? You’ve come to the right place. This article will both provide you with the general rules of thumb for self-editing, and also list helpful steps to follow in the self-editing process. Keep reading to learn…

As defined by Google’s handy dandy dictionary, to edit means to “prepare (written material) for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.” But is it really necessary?…


You need to edit because it will make the reading journey so much more enjoyable. 

As mentions in their article “Scribe Guide to Editing Your Book”, the best selling book of the past thirty years is 50 Shades of Grey. The best selling novel series is Harry Potter. These are both written at a young adult level. The easier it is for readers to access your book, the more likely they are to like it and review it.

Of course, there are pros and cons to self-editing. And you should know that self-editing is time-consuming. If you have any interest in hiring an editor, check out Upwork, BookBaby, and Scribendi.

If at any point you get frustrated with self-editing and wonder if it really is necessary, just remember this: According to a 2015 Writer’s Digest Magazine article, the number one element of a book that people will want to read is “readability”.

Get familiar with our seven rules before you begin self-editing:

1. Learn the basics.

If you’re going to write in a readable way, you’re going to need to know your stuff when it comes to spelling, grammar, and formatting rules. We recommend The Chicago Manual of Style, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, or Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style.

2. Develop your skills as a reader.

How will you know what readable books look like if you aren’t reading them yourself? We recommended this tip back in our article on 15 Habits for Author Success, and think it applies perfectly for anyone who wants to learn to edit.

3. Know your audience.

Writing for English speakers? Maybe avoid writing a book in Mandarin. Know what your target audience is interested in reading that and let this knowledge be your compass.

4. Say great things, use fewer words.

We all know people who are rather… loquacious. This rarely translates well into writing. Write to your strongest ability while using as few words as possible. Sentences that drag on and on are rarely fun to read.

5. Ditch your crutch words.

Every writer has a fallback list of favorite words that pop up over and over again in their writing. If you can’t recognize what your crutch words are, ask a friend to read your writing and ask them. Get ready to ditch these crutch words – they become monotonous and boring for readers.

6. Maintain consistent POV.

If your story starts off in the first-person narrative, don’t switch to third-person limited halfway through the book. This is confusing for both readers and for you.

7. Be prepared to face your book objectively.

If you’re going to become comfortable making edits, your words can’t be too precious to you. Face your book in an objective manner and keep in mind that edits are improving the quality of your work.

Follow these 7 steps for self-editing:

1. To get started, step away from your book.

Set it aside for a week or two. Move on with your life, do some yoga, and try not to do anything book-related. This can prevent burnout and keep you from hating your book.

2. Do a first read-through to line edit.

This means that you aren’t combing your text for errors, but getting more of a general feel for your usage of language. Take this step to see if you like how your book sounds.

3. Do a second read-through to focus on spelling and grammar.

Ignore the storyline this go ‘round. Just think about the nitty-gritty mechanics.

4. Run a book editing software.

Use something like Scrivener or Microsoft Word to catch any spelling and grammar mistakes you may have overlooked.

5. Have your best friend, your mom, a friend from your book club, anyone, read your book.

Get as many trusted, fresh eyes as possible on the text. These are the people who want to help you and will be more than happy to check for any mistakes you might have missed on previous read-throughs.

6. Read your book out loud.

You’ll be surprised how many mistakes or goofs you’ll catch just by hearing your own words!


You may know you’ve begun to over-edit when words are blending together, you can’t make sense of your sentences, and it feels like what was once a well-crafted story has fallen apart in shambles.

So, tell us – do you self-edit?

What methods have worked best for you? What methods haven’t proven successful for you? Let us know below!

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2 comments on “The Basics of Self-Editing: How to Do It Yourself
  1. Thanks for all the great tips! What has also worked for me is printing out my work and editing sentences with a pen, and then transferring the edits onto my document, one chapter at a time.

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