Welcome to the never ending bane of your existence as a writer. Just kidding… sort of. Self editing is one of those skills that comes with lots, and lots, or practice. It’s very rare for me to meet a writer who loves the self editing stage. Still, it’s one of the most important steps in your story writing process. So, let’s start from the beginning.
You’ve completed a first draft (yay you!). Now what? Should you send it off to a beta reader? An editor? A publisher? Nope. Now it’s time to self edit that lovely but messy piece of writing.
There are so many different ways to approach a self edit. Some writers read the entire thing out loud and correct mistakes along the way. Some writer print it out and hand edit it. Others take it scene by scene. Still others will reverse outline it to see where the plot gaps are. What should you do? Where do you start?
On page one.
You had a story idea that you just loved. You wrote it all out. For weeks the excitement of the story kept you coming back to the computer until you finally typed “the end.” Sure, you know it has a few problems but ultimately how could anyone not love this story?
This is why self editing is so hard. This is the stage after the initial love affair with your story. It’s the time where that inner critic you’ve kept locked away in your mind gets a real chance to speak, and it can be frustrating and terrifying. But don’t give up. This is also the stage that takes a lovely story idea and gives it a chance to truly sparkle.
Start from page one, and go through it. Line by line. Don’t be afraid to recognize where the weak spots are, because this is just a draft. You can rewrite those weak scenes until they flow, but you have to be willing to really look at what’s on the page and not what’s in your head. You have to be willing to admit that maybe some of the writing techniques you’ve chosen aren’t doing what you need them to do. So pick up a craft book, or read a few blog posts until you have a better idea of how to wrangle those words. But most importantly, don’t give up! Keep going back and adjusting until you need a second pair of eyes on it, then send it off to your favorite beta reader and brace yourself for another round of editing. Because any story worth writing, is worth editing until it shines.