Self-Editing Your Manuscript by Janelle Riley

Self-Editing Your Manuscript by Janelle RileyLet’s welcome back monthly columnist Janelle T. Riley as she shares with us “Self-Editing Your Manuscript.” Enjoy!


As an indie author, I find the writing isn’t quite done unless the manuscript is fully edited.

So, how can one do this? 

Are we able to do it ourselves or do we hire an editor?

When Should You Hire an Editor?

To answer these questions, I would say it’s strictly up to the individual.

Now, taking the route of hiring an editor can be an excellent one. I recommend doing research to find the right one because some editors don’t come cheap, and it can get quite pricey.

Unless you’re rolling in the dough, this isn’t an easy decision, but hiring a professional can take the stress off your shoulders from having to do it on your own. 

Nowadays, there are a few editors that will demand little or no money to edit your manuscript, but one would need to be quick on their feet to locate them. Yet, you would have to be careful, because the work from a free editor could be messy.

Do It the Hard Way: Self-Editing

There is another option, and it won’t cost a penny: self-editing.

The only time I would recommend this is if you’re well versed in more than just the common mistakes.

  • Do you know what you’re looking for besides missing or misspelled words? 
  • Are you familiar with sentence structure or pointing out redundancies? 
  • Can you point out plot holes or changed verb tenses? (There is much more to it with editing.)

If you can answer yes to all of these, then yes, you can self-edit your manuscript. 

Beware: However, there are some writers who are eager to have their work completed, then published immediately.

Those writers do the bare minimum — checking just for misspellings — in editing their work, but they’re hurting their career as an author by not doing a more thorough edit.

How to Get Started with Self-Editing

Here are a few secrets on self-editing: 

Take a course on self-editing. 

I took an editing course that was offered through the local library.

It cost me nothing to take this course—this is something anyone can look into if they’re interested in doing editing work in the future.

Hire a reasonably-priced editor to learn your strengths and weaknesses. 

I also hired a reasonably-priced editor for my first novel, then followed their notes. 

This was the only time I could do this since it’s not in my budget to continue having an editor. I learned a lot and the notes from the editor can be a blueprint for future novels or articles.

Read your manuscript aloud. 

Once I concluded with the steps above, I read the manuscript out loud. (If you prefer, you can have the word processor do it.) This way, I could catch redundancies, missing words, and believe it or not, verb tenses within the manuscript.

Get help from eagle-eyed friends. 

After writing a couple hundred pages, your eyes and mind are probably tired, so the irrevocable step is to have a friend or family member proofread the manuscript.

A fresh pair of eyes can detect missing punctuation or an added word or phrase that may have been missed during the editing process.

It happens; ‘cause after all, we’re human.

Self-Editing with Software

Spell check and other editing software can come in handy for misspellings, punctuation, as well as some word usage during this process. But like everything else, I wouldn’t rely on these as my primary source of editing. 

Here’s a bonus tip. 

The software will only check for misspellings, some punctuation placement, and word usage.

It won’t check for these issues accurately though, thus you’ll need to check the area of the sentence where that comma is needed, or if the suggested word is used correctly. 

This software additionally won’t check for plot holes or if verb tenses have been switched up within the manuscript.

It’s imperative that a writer stay mindful of this while editing.

You Can Learn to Self-Edit!

Writing is tough work all by itself, editing can be 10 times tougher, especially if you’re new to the game.

It is best to take this process slow and not rush. 

Finally, regarding trust in editing software, keep this in mind: Technology can’t be a replacement for a fresh pair of eyes.


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Janelle RileyJanelle lives in Louisiana with her husband, their three children, and Hamilton their half lab half Rottweiler. Along with writing, she’s a professional photographer and enjoys being outdoors photographing people and nature. When not writing or photographing, she enjoys traveling, drawing, listening to music, and cooking. 

Janelle’s on Twitter @janelletriley1 and Instagram @tejay_riley5

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