Self-Editing Tips for Fiction Writers

The first draft of your story is complete. Now it’s time to refine your work through self-editing. I approach this task through three layers.

Layer 1 – overall story structure

Where is the true beginning of your story? (Hint: for many novelists it’s hidden in chapter two.) Does the plot flow seamlessly in ever-intensifying fashion, or are there holes to fill and scenes to cut? Does each scene begin in the middle of the action and end before it dies? Are the main characters living, breathing people with flaws and strengths? Does the setting evoke a vivid picture? Is point of view established immediately in every scene? Does your dialogue carry tension? Will the ending leave your reader satisfied?

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Give your writing the edge by submitting up to 15 pages of your work to the Guild’s Here are some others.) Short sentences and paragraphs give the appearance of faster action. Double check your spelling and grammar as spell check doesn’t catch everything.

Layer 3 – whole document

Print out your story, double spaced, and read it carefully in one sitting, if possible. . Some writers catch more this way than by editing on a computer screen.

Instead of stopping to fix a mistake or smooth a passage, make a note in the margin and return to it later. Look for anything that will jerk the reader from the story world.

Self-editing is a powerful tool. Trust your instincts. If it sounds off, fix it. Remember, the Delete button is your friend.

Danielle Grandinetti, is a graduate of the Apprentice, Journeyman, and Craftsman courses. She especially enjoys writing teen fiction. Danielle is currently working toward her Master’s in Communication and Culture from Trinity International University.


  1. Sharon Clark says

    I have found that if I wait at least a few weeks after I have finished my first draft before I start the editing process it is not as big a chore as it might be because I feel like I’m reading the manuscript fresh and that helps. The manuscript I am currently editing I actually finished in November. I just couldn’t bring myself to start editing it sooner. I’m glad I waited. I’m ALMOST enjoying the editing process.

    • says

      I was so excited to find that CWG has a blog! I was browsing here, looking for inspiration to get back to work on my novel, and this was just what I needed. I think I’ll start with editing where I left off a couple of years ago :)

      • Michael Ehret says

        Angela, that’s music to our ears! Inspiration is one of the reasons we started the blog, along with trying to find ways students, members, and others can interact with each other.

        Glad you like it!

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