While it is helpful to find a fresh pair of eyes to give your book baby its best chance of succeeding, it’s not always possible — at least, not right away. If you’re in the middle of self-editing and looking for some simple ways to up your editing game, look no further! Here are ten simple tips to help you perfect your own prose:
- Read out loud. Your prose sounds different in your head. Reading out loud is a great way to pick out awkward phrases or dialogue that doesn’t quite sound natural.
- Throw it away! Well, not really. But if you’ve been picking away at your manuscript for a long time and not really gaining any headway, consider rewriting your novel from a blank document. Re-write it scene by scene without looking at the original document. While you don’t have to continue this exercise for the whole novel if you don’t want to, it is a good exercise to show you which parts of your story are important and which ones are not.
- Get rid of double spaces after periods. Even though you were probably taught to double space after periods, the current publishing industry standard is to use single spaces instead. This little fix can elevate your manuscript to looking much more polished in not much time at all. (For an in-depth explanation of why this is, check out this article over at Slate.)
- Separate and pare down big paragraphs. The current trend–especially for YA and MG novels–is short paragraphs. Given that it creates more white space on the page, which is easier on the eye for readers, if you follow this trend and make sure your paragraphs are short, it will help your manuscript look more professional too.
- Read it backwards. It might sound counterproductive, but if you’re trying to look at your words with a fresh eye, reading your manuscript backwards will help you notice each word and you’ll be much more likely to notice words that don’t fit in!
After all of these steps, if you’re still stuck, there’s never any harm in getting some feedback from an editor!