Ten Self-editing Tips for Writers

How to step up any manuscript a notch:

  1. On the first draft, write loose, free flowing, and sloppy. Flush out random thoughts. Flood the blank pages with words, words, words.
  2. Pen a one-sentence focused theme of what you think you’re trying to say. Eliminate every detour and divergence.
  3. Jot down bunches of working titles, then choose the zippiest one.
  4. Find your best line; make that the opener.
  5. Circle every passive verb (is, was, were, etc.) and attempt to re-write the whole sentence with an active verb form.
  6. Underline each lazy, unnecessary adverb and participle. Rewrite a dynamite sentence without it.
  7. Chop off end-of-sentence prepositions. Rewrite into a smooth, natural sounding, logical presentation.
  8. Read your manuscript aloud to discover off-rhythm or repetitious words and phrases.
  9. Get a rude friend to read your project. Ask that person to circle over-used words, clichés, pet phrases, or ones that peeve them.
  10. Insert or substitute a doozy of an anecdote — if possible, an original story from your experience, imagination, or watching someone else endure gritty or funny stuff — that nails the theme. Eliminate internet homilies that have already done double duty on everybody’s forewords.

Recommended Resources:

  • Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King An Introduction to Christian Writing by Ethel Herr
  • Sally Stuart’s Guide to Getting Published by Sally E. Stuart
  • The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White
  • The Elements of Grammar by Margaret Shertzer
  • Words on Target by Sue Nichols
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
  • Better Vocabulary in 30 Minutes a Day by Edie Schwager

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