The editing stage is THE most important part of the writing process, so here are 40 proven editing tips that will help you make your manuscript sparkle!
1. Cut transition words to prevent clunky and slow writing (e.g. currently, finally, basically, eventually, generally, admittedly, consequently).
2. Chop your lengthy sentences in two – reading your work aloud is a great way to hear where the natural breaks should be.
3. Refer to people as who/whom, and refer to things as that.
4. Slash the passive voice and write in the active voice (e.g. change the bread was eaten by the duck to the duck ate the bread).
5. Remove phrases like started to and began to.
6. Cut in order to and just write to.
7. Banish the words very and really as much as possible!
8. Replace the word thing with something more specific so your readers know exactly what you’re talking about.
9. Make sure you begin a new line when contextual backstory changes to the present plot and vice versa.
10. Expel the word that as much as you can – only use it when absolutely necessary!
11. Swap negative phrases with positive ones (e.g. change no additional elves are needed in the battle to Additional elves will only be needed in an emergency).
12. Sever as many adverbs as possible (e.g. words ending in ly).
13. Remember to take breaks to separate yourself from your manuscript!
14. Only use one point of view in each scene.
16. Chop the words that end in ing and transform them into their past tense participle (e.g. change we were running through the forest to we ran through the forest).
17. Get rid of sentences that begin with on (e.g. switch on walking into the room, Arthur grabbed his sword to Arthur walked into the room and grabbed his sword).
18. Make sure you start a new line when you write a flashback and then when you resume to present day.
19. Review your manuscript in a different format. For example, if you always read your work on your laptop, print it out instead. Reading your novel in a different way can really help you to see it from a fresh perspective.
20. Axe the word just from your story as much as you can.
21. Make sure each of your characters sound different. Can you tell exactly who is speaking without the use of dialogue tags?
22. Chop small talk from your dialogue – small talk will not advance your plot or reveal anything about your characters, so get rid of pleasantries!
23. Focus on one section at a time instead of everything at once – break your editing down into manageable chunks. For example, character development, plot and subplots, structure, pacing and consistency, dialogue, and syntax, grammar and typos.
24. Drop the well-known clichés and think of your own to keep your writing more interesting.
25. Cut unnecessary names that are used in dialogue. Unless we’re trying to attract someone’s attention, we’re angry, or we’re trying to make a point, it’s quite unnatural to use people’s names in conversation.
26. Exile the word somehow from your writing unless your character is missing a piece of information that could advance the plot. For example, the orc broke into my locked hut somehow and stole my weapons is acceptable because the victim in this situation cannot explain how the orc broke into their locked hut.
27. Chop somewhat and slightly – more times than not, your sentence is fine without these words.
28. Discard the word seem as it weakens action and tension.
29. Make sure you begin a new line when you write a single line for dramatic effect.
30. Fact check everything! If you’re writing non-fiction or a self-help book, readers will want to know that you have done your research on the topic. This involves backing up statements with references or statistics rather than just throwing a fact out there with no evidence.
31. If you’re editing on a computer, change the font, font colour and background colour to encourage your brain to view your work from a fresh perspective.
32. Make sure you begin new lines when a character speaks.
33. Remove double spaces at the beginning of new sentences. It’s common to naturally double space, which isn’t a problem on other occasions, but when publishing written content, you want to make sure you always have single spaces, otherwise you run the risk of having a manuscript that looks unfinished.
34. Use your characters’ names in narration. Many writers have a habit of referring to their characters as he and she. Using pronouns is fine when the reader knows who you are talking about, or when you have a scene involving only one character, but when he and she is used too much, readers will lose track of who is doing what.
35. Replace words commonly repeated in writing (e.g. looked, walked, said).
36. Make sure you add page numbers and your name and book title to the header before you query literary agents. It is usually a requirement when sending work to them, but it will also be a lifesaver if they print your work off to read and drop it or mix it up with another book – they will then be able to easily fix the issue.
37. Try and leave the proofreading until last (e.g. looking for typos and spelling errors).
38. Remove extra, unnecessary punctuation. Punctuation marks can be powerful when used sparingly, but when your manuscript is riddled with all sorts of punctuation: colons…ellipses, commas – hyphens and full stops…your writing will not flow smoothly. See?
39. Hire a copy editor once you have edited your manuscript as much as possible!
40. Take your time and good luck! 😊
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