13 Top Tips On How To Edit Your Own Writing


If you’re new to writing, you may not yet have sampled the bittersweet agonies of trying to edit and polish your own writing. If you’re further along in your writing career, you may still wondering how to edit your own writing.

And that is completely understandable. Editing is no mean feat, and it’s even harder editing your own work.

So I’ve selected my favourite tips to share with you on how to begin to edit your own writing help you to develop your first draft into something that can be presented for consideration by a publisher, agent, or editor.

1.       Don’t be nervous/unwilling to seek constructive criticism.

This is your most valuable editing tool. Never be afraid to seek, accept and trial criticism. Remember, it’s better to receive hear feedback before your book is out in the world, and you may be pleasantly surprised and encourage by the feedback and suggestions you receive.

2.       Write yourself a reader’s report before you edit each draft.

You can read more about what a reader’s report is here, but I advise focusing on your work’s plot, strengths, and weaknesses to help you touch base with the intentions and logistics of your book. If you can, seek an external reader’s report and see how it compares to yours (although be careful to avoid family and friends for this).

3.       Print your work and edit on paper first.

We read things differently on paper, and it’s much easier to see mistakes when your eyes aren’t strained from looking at a screen.

4.       Be mindful of what could be best lost from your writing.

Prune anything that doesn’t add to your work, and don’t be afraid to kill your darlings if it’s for the best.

5.       Once you’ve finished your draft, put it in a draw and leave it.

I’m sure you’re anxious to start editing right away, but try to give yourself at least a week to clear your head after finishing each draft before embarking on an edit. Allow your brain time to rejuvenate and prepare for the exciting task ahead.

6.       Take frequent breaks and time to reflect. 

Following on from the previous tip, when you do begin the editing process, do not rush. Take frequent breaks as needed, and remember, these things take time. You may finish editing in the evening hating what you have, and wake up with a clearer head and find you love what you’ve done. Patience and understanding and respecting your unique working process will yield the best results.

7.       Don’t rely on spell checkers.

There are many words, phrases, and variant spellings that are unrecognised by spell checkers, so try not to become too reliant on them.

8.       Redraft, redraft, redraft.

Don’t limit yourself or pressure yourself to complete a certain number of drafts. Take as many as you need, and don’t be daunted – each one only improves the last.

9.       Keep deleted material in a new document/book. 

Who knows when you may use these deceased darlings?

10.   Save all drafts and revisit old ones frequently.

Revisiting old drafts will not only show your how much your writing has developed, but will highlight if you’ve omitted elements of earlier drafts that would enrich your work if re-introduced.

11.   Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Think of and respect editing as an extension of your writing process. Make sure that you factor in editing time and resources to work around your life, and treat your schedules and deadlines.. You can use tools such as Trello to help you organise your time and tasks. Margaret Atwood famously colour codes her chapters when editing her novels as a way of reminding herself what needs to be worked on, and to update her editor on her progress.

12.   Know when to stop, and avoid over-editing.

This may seem like contradictory advice to tip 8, but you can have too much of a good thing. If you find yourself at the stage where you’re only changing small words, you’re probably done editing for now.

13.   Don’t stress!

There’s no such thing as a perfect first draft, and with dedication and the right help, you’ll sculpt your novel into the best version of itself. You can do this!

I hope you find these tips a handy and helpful guide to kick-start your editing process, but if you would like further advice that is tailored towards your unique writing, please feel free to get in touch or to browse my bespoke editorial and feedback services. All services are designed to suit all budgets and projects, and to help you transform your writing into the best version of itself.

Chloe Murphy