EDITOR KNOWHOW How can I self-edit?


In our Editor KnowHow series, Kesia Lupo, Senior Editor at Chicken House Books and YA author, tackles the daunting task of self-editing, and getting a manuscript ready for submission.

Self-editing is a crucial tool for every writer. Preparing your manuscript for submission to agents or competitions is a daunting task and everyone wants to put their very best work out there. But it’s difficult to be objective about your own writing – you’re so intimately involved with it that sometimes it feels impossible to step back and see it as a reader would. 

So, here are some tips based on what I’ve learned in my writing/editing life.

Don't dive right in
When you’ve finished your draft, don’t try and dive into the editing straight away. Put it in that metaphorical (or literal!) drawer and leave it for at least a couple of weeks. Have a writing break or work on something completely new before coming back to it with fresher eyes.

Read as a reader
When you do read your work through, print it out or read it on an e-reader to help you resist the temptation to edit as you go along. Instead, read it as a reader would – from start to finish without taking more than a few ‘headline’ notes in a separate notebook. When you’re done, write yourself some more detailed bullet-point editorial notes – it’s always useful to have a plan.

Consider finding a beta reader
If you feel ready to share your manuscript, find a beta reader. This should be someone who you feel will have an objective view of your work (i.e. not a close friend or family member) but will also be sensitive and constructive. Ideally, they will be a writer too so you can return the favour! Reading and commenting on others’ work is a great way to learn how to edit effectively.

Work from big to small
When you feel ready to dive into your edit, follow the editorial process used by publishers: tackle the big things first (e.g. changes to the plot or big cuts) before smoothing out the writing. Work your way down to spelling and grammar, don’t start with them.

For more comprehensive advice, I run a self-editing course on WriteMentor – I’ve had some great feedback on this from writers.

  Main image by Levi Bare

Kesia Lupo is Senior Editor for Chicken House, a boutique children’s publisher based in the Southwest of England, acquiring and editing fiction for children aged 7 up to YA. She is also the author of two YA fantasy novels, We Are Blood and Thunder and We Are Bound by Stars, published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books. She was born in Essex, grew up in Germany and lives in Bristol with her husband.


Do you have any suggestions for KnowHow? If there's something you'd like to know how to do or know more about, tell us. Email KnowHow editor, Eleanor at knowhow@britishscbwi.org

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.