Six steps for editing your manuscript

There are a lot of hurdles to writing great fiction, which is why it’s always important to keep reading and writing. We only get better by doing. Here are some self-editing tips to help you clean up your book before you hire an editor.

Six Steps for Editing Your Manuscript.

There are many editors who charge by the hour. If they’re spending their time fixing blunders you could’ve easily repaired yourself, you’re burning cash and time. Yet, correct these problems, and editors can more easily get to the meat of your novel. This means you will spend less money and get far higher value.

#1 The Brutal Truth about Adverbs, Metaphors and Similes

I have never met an adverb, simile, or metaphor I didn’t love. I totally dig description, but it can present problems.

First of all, adverbs are not all evil. Redundant adverbs are evil. If someone shouts loudly? How else are they going to shout? Whispering quietly?  but if they whisper seductively? The adverb seductively gives us a quality to the whisper that isn’t already implied by the verb.

Check your work for adverbs and change the redundant ones.

Metaphors and similes are awesome, but need to be used sparingly. Yes, in school, our teachers or professors didn’t ding us for using 42 metaphors in five pages, but their job was to teach us how to properly use a metaphor or simile, not prepare us for commercial publication as professional novelists.

When we use too much of this verbal glitter, we can create what’s called Purple Prose. This glitter, while sparkly, can pull the reader out of the story or even confuse the reader.

Go through your pages and highlight metaphors and similes, try to use stronger adjectives and verbs.

#2 Stage Direction

Be active. Characters can “brush hair out of their face” “open doors” and even slap people without you telling us they reached out an arm or hand to do this.

Trust the reader.

#3 Painful and Alien Movement of Body Parts…

Her eyes flew to the other end of the restaurant.

His head followed her across the room.

Make sure your character keeps all body parts attached. Her gaze can follow a person and so can her stare, but if her eyes can’t follow.

#4 Too much Physiology…

Ease up on the physiology. Less is often more.

Get a copy of Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi’s Emotion Thesaurus to help you vary physiology. Also, if someone’s heart is pounding, that’s ok. We assume until they are out of danger it’s still pounding, there is no need to constantly remind the readers.

#5 Passive Voice

Many writers will craft sentences in passive voice to break up and vary sentence structure. If you go through your pages and see was clusters, that’s a huge hint that passive voice has infected your story.

#6 Almost always Use “Said” as a Tag

A character can’t “laugh” something. They can’t “snip” “spit” “snarl” “grouse” words. They can say and ever so often they can ask. Said becomes white noise. Readers don’t “see” it. It keeps them in the story and pacing along – especially if the dialogue wants to move at a fast pace. If we want to add things like laughing, griping, complaining, then fine. It just shouldn’t be the tag.

“You’re such a jerk.” She laughed as she flicked brownie batter onto Fabio’s white shirt.


There you go, six easy tips for self-editing. We all make these mistakes and if you can get rid of these common offenders on your own, then good editors can focus on the deeper aspects of your manuscript.

What are some other self-editing guidelines you use to keep your prose clean and effective?

If you think someone has an interesting point of view and answer, please invite them or share this post to them.

#DWTSmith #manuscriptproblems

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