A lot of people ask me what my routine is for self-editing my books (since I was a former editor). I have a three step system that I use for my manuscript and today I'd like to share the first step. It's the easiest step and the one that makes me feel good because I can usually check it off pretty quickly.
I call it the CLAW
Check for basic editing errors like:
- Page numbering and blank pages
- Too many adjectives or adverbs “It was a beautiful sunny June day and the lush, emerald green grass reflected the bright yellow sunlight and hurt my eyes. Or, “She desperately wanted to kiss him passionately.”
- Tense consistency and subject/verb agreement “He couldn't believe that his boss had fired him over a typographical error. He is a great worker and always turns in his projects on time." Subject/verb agreement, “He run to the store.”
- Clichés “She’ll come crawling back to me.” “He couldn’t beat around the bush any longer.”
- Repetitious descriptions Weave in your first descriptions and make them powerful enough that you don’t have to beat your reader over the head with more.
- Favorite words “really” “just” “some” “that”
- Too many dialogue tags or weird tags James laughed at her pain. “Don’t bother trying to get away,” he replied. We don’t need the replied because we know it’s James talking. And use “said,” in most instances because when you try to get fancy “he pontificated,” or “she remonstrated,” it can take the reader out of the story.
- Chapter or POV breaks. Double check that those are correct and done.
Let someone else read it that will give me good feedback. Not my mother or grandma, but someone who will be honest and somewhat brutal.
Always print it out and read a hard copy. Mistakes will jump out at me that way. Sometimes putting it into a different font can also be helpful in spotting mistakes.
Walk-away for a few hours, days or weeks and come back with fresh eyes. I’ve created something and I need a bit of time to enjoy that, but I keep thinking about it, and when I come back to it, I’m ready to make the changes I need to. Anything that doesn’t advance the story must be cut out, even if it’s my favorite part.
So, now I’ve done the basic CLAW checklist, then I send it out to beta readers for some feedback. But I don’t wait around for them to get back to me. While they have it, I print out the new copy and read it front to back for any other little changes I might want to make. Once that’s done, I’m ready for the second round of self-editing.
We'll talk about that round next time.
Tell me this, though, do you have a routine for self-editing? Anything that works for you? Is there a point where you'll stop reading a book because there's too many typos or editing issues?