Self-Editing - The Final Review

You've completed every dimension of editing as instructed in these pages and as elucidated by the books and resouces in which you've been emmersed. You know that your best-seller will knock James Patterson off the New York Times list and are prepared to bid on the bigger-than-his house next door on Palm Beach. What next?

Put it away for another month.


Nothing Replaces the Slow, Deliberate Read

This is the last go-through before you enlist others to read it. Typos, clumsy sentence structure, and passive interactions between characters will all distract readers from your raison d'écrire.

Letting it rest for another month has softened your recollection. Now you can honor the work you've done by performing a slow, deliberate, conscious reading of the manuscript:
  • PRINT THE DOCUMENT! The time to stop treating this as a manuscript is nigh. Print it. Get a pencil. Sit down when you can read without distracton for a few hours. You need to read absent the mental background noise of knowing there's something else you should be doing. Reading the manuscript must be the only thing you're doing.
  • Many writing professionals suggest reading out loud. It attracts the critique of a second part of the brain, that which monitors hearing. If you stumble through a sentence, then the construction of that sentence is questionable. You wrote it, so if you trip over words, a reader could be stymied. If this happens too often, a reader may abandon ship.
  • Read slowly and deliberately. If you find your mind wandering, go back to the beginning of the paragraph or page and read it again. Take note if your thoughts were about the story and possible ways to enhance it, or you just got bored. It is possible that, within your epic tome, you've written a listless sentence, paragraph, or scene that must be rewritten... or cut.
  • If you find a typo or a word you'd like to replace, pencil it in, but don't stop reading. Be highly critical.
You do not have to read the entire manuscript in one sitting; your readers won't.

Beware the Abyss of Endless Editing

I had a friend in a writing group who offered me her manuscript. Though outside my genre of usual interest, it was a great story that needed some editorial manipulation, but held my interest. When I saw her at our monthly meeting, she told me she changed major aspects of the plot. I advised her that she may want to reverse that, but she was motivated to move on. Some months later, she procured the services of a professional editor, paid handsomly, and acted on the editor's suggestions and rewrote more scenes. Two years later, though that was eight years ago, she was still rewriting. Ultimately, her enthusiasm for the project waned, and it sits on an electronic dustpile.

At some point, you must accept yes for an answer.
  • Yes, I've gone through the manscript and if there are typos, they are few and they'll be found later.
  • Yes, my word-by-word edit was thorough and I'm confident those kinds of error are also few.
  • Yes, the plot makes sense.
  • If there were Alpha-readers, yes, they were honestly encouraging.
If even for just a moment you feel you are done, stop. Trust that moment. Clean up the manuscript using the techniques on the preceeding pages, and put it out for Beta reading.


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