Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Be Your Own Critic

This is the 2nd of a fifteen post series, entitled "15 Days to Writerly Awesome in 2015,"  posting on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday of January.

Happy Wednesday! It's time for another post in our New Year's series, so pull up a chair and hang on to your coffee cups. Now that you know how to schedule your writing time, let's talk a bit about editing.

As we speak, I'm editing my novel, These are the Moments. (Did you catch that? I'm editing and writing a blog post at the same time. I'm practically a wizard.)

Whether you're publishing traditionally or indie, you should have an outside editor take a look at your work. To make their job easier, and to help you get more for your money, you need to edit your work on your own first.

Self-Editing for fiction writers can be a little tricky. For starters, we love our own work so darn much. Otherwise, why would we be writing it? And we picked our words/characters/scenes for a reason, which makes it hard for us to make the tough cuts.

So how do we do an effective job of self-editing? I've got a few tips for you.

Don't be an Author. Be a Reader.

As I'm going through my own book, I try to read it as if I'm my ideal reader. (P.S. My ideal reader is a twenty-something girl who spends her free time on Hello Giggles, sings regularly in conversation and tends to wears a lot of pink. Comment below if you're any of the above.)

Anyway, this helps me get out of my own brain for a second and focus on what's actually working/not working in the story.

This tactic really works if you have a specific person in mind. For instance, let's say I decide to read a chapter through the eyes of my sister. Since my sister and I think differently, I'm able to pick up on issues I wasn't able to before, by asking the questions she might ask.

Where I look at something emotionally, she might come from a more logical standpoint. It's a right brain/left brain thing. It's important to avoid assuming that everyone is going to interpret the story as you would. 

Don't be afraid of the big cuts.

Editing is hard. It's not going to be a simple, "I skimmed it, all done!" You can read more about my editing technique here. In the first round of macro edits, this is where you're going to find the big, plot-shifting changes.

If you read through your story and think to yourself, "I really don't think that character is serving a big enough purpose," then you should make the cut. Even if he/she is inspired by your late, great beloved puppy.

When it comes to making serious changes, your mind needs to focus on the greater good. You need to ask the tough questions: 

  • Does this serve the overall story?
  • Does this further the character development?
  • Is this scene distracting? 

Chances are if you're seeing something wrong, your reader will too.

Don't turn in sloppy work.

You finished a book. That's pretty freaking cool. And I'm sure you're just dying to send it off to editing, pick your cover designer and have all of your friends read it. (I'm saying this from experience, obviously.)

But don't forget to take it slow. Don't send your work to an editor until it's practically glowing. You wouldn't turn in a C paper, knowing that you're capable of an A, would you? No. So don't do this with your book.

Spend hours, days and weeks giving every last word some serious thought. Then, when you feel you've done your best, send it off.

Need a little extra help? 

I'm incredibly excited to introduce you to my dear friend Kristen's newest e-course, Self-Editing Success. The editing process can be extremely daunting, but with Kristen's 19 proven strategies, you can be editing with ease in no time. 

If you've ever read the She's Novel blog, you know how helpful Kristin's content is. To find out more about this program, just click the image below! 

* Please note that this is an affiliate link for a product I strongly support. I'd never sell you something I didn't trust wholeheartedly! 

DISCUSSION TIME: What are your best editing techniques? What are your biggest pitfalls?