I say DO! I can list many reasons I self edited and self proofed my novel. While I did have some help it was not that of a professional. I am not anti-professional. By all means if you have the luxury of using a professional editor, go ahead. I would have loved the help of a professional editor. However not only can I not afford a professional, I also do not know any professionals who would have done the work for free. With that being said, that was my number one reason for editing my own novel. Some say the author is too close to the work to properly edit it. While I can understand, perhaps relate and maybe even agree with that thought, I still did not feel the need to hire an editor. Call me unconventional but I feel there are many ways to explore becoming a successful author.
Even if you choose to go with professional editing, the writer is responsible for making their work as neat and tidy, and well written as is possible. Spell checking, grammar and structure are just some of the things you have to look at before you can even begin to call a story or novel publish ready. Even though I always did well in English class, I still find I make common mistakes. One big one for me was comma use. I used to add a comma after words like however, yet, and but. It was in prepping for my GED that I was taught when you use a word that means the same as a comma, or is a way to pause then you do not follow that word with a comma. To this day I almost add a comma after but or however…then I stop and remember my GED teacher and what I was taught.
Spell Check should always be where you start, even with self editing. Spell check can be your best friend. One wise piece of advice though, pay close attention and do not allow spell check to change a not so common word into a totally different word. (there’s always a dictionary) Spell check will also help with grammar and sentence structure. It will give you suggestions on words to change or other ways to change the sentence so it sounds better or flows more smoothly. My biggest advice for spell check:do not allow spell check or grammar suggestions actually change what you are trying to say. While spell check and grammar functions are very helpful they can actually harm when the computer is suggesting a change that either does not actually make sense, or makes your sentence or words mean different from what they had.
Ok so let’s say you got through spell check without wanting to slap the program…what next? In all honesty…re-read, proofread your work once more. Make sure that your story reads the way you want it to and that spell check’s grammar options didn’t change things in a harmful manner. Even if you take a break from editing and work on another project, that’s ok. Sometimes you need to leave things be and come back to it with a clear head.
You did spell check, you survived it’s grammar suggestions…you proofread a second time…what now? Let someone read it. Rather that be one someone or ten someones, it needs to be read by others. Not only for the reader point of view but also because others will see mistakes you weren’t even aware you make/made. They’ll find those errors where spell check allowed a word to slide because it’s an actual word yes but it made the sentence sound like nonsense. (this has happened to me so many times I did want to give spell check a good shaking haha!)
Once you’ve allowed someone else to read and hopefully suggest editing fixes or maybe even other ways to improve your story, make the changes needed to improve the work. Be honest with yourself and make changes you know it needs. This doesn’t mean change it in ways that makes it something you don;t wish the story to be. It means do what is necessary to make it publish ready.
One part of editing I find that I do a lot of is going back over a story and seeing how I can re word things that I may have originally worded unclear or not as crisp as it should be. I think all writers do one thing the same, we tend to write fast when ideas hit, we don;t look back and the enter key keeps going like the energizer bunny. We don’t stop to edit, we make those common mistakes and sometimes we don’t even see it when proofreading. Our minds have a way of correcting the error without us actually correcting it on the page. For example, when typing a sentence may become “I cannot tell you who many times I have made that mistake.” While spell check/grammar will overlook the mistake of “who” instead of “how” it’s also possible for our brain to overlook that mistake. But the point is that your reader will most likely catch the mistake. Numerous times my husband has caught typos that spell check allowed and that I did not realize were there.
So you think you’re done? Perhaps you are and your story is ready to publish. I say perhaps, because when I went back to “A Killer’s Saga” after it had been stored away for a long time, I not only found things i wished to change to make it sound better but also some major changes to make it into a story that truly holds to me and my personality. I found that I’m very comfortable writing erotica and wanted to meld that into a story I was already very proud of, already very attached to. And now that same story is one that holds true to how I feel it should have been written from day one. So sometimes give a story some shelf time. Set it aside and when you come back to it after that shelf time, read it again. Make sure you’re honestly happy with it and that it’s truly your best work. Then work on publishing.
Happy self editing! If you have any comments, or questions, positive feedback is always welcomed.