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Self-Editing 101

You’ve finished that novel and now you’re anxious to send it out for queries or to self-publish it, but it’s far from ready for that stage. Even if you’re sending it off to a professional editor, you need to know the basic skills of editing so that you’re sending out the best possible version of your manuscript that you can manage. The more edits you can make before you send it to your editor, the more money you’ll save in the long run.

I will be writing regular posts on self-editing specifically for indie authors, providing some basic knowledge and tips & tricks that will make the process easier for you. I’ll have some cheat sheets and guides for you to download as well, but let’s start with the basics. What is editing?


There are three types of editing which are best done in the proper order:

  • Developmental Editing – ‘big picture’ editing. It looks at the book’s concept, outline, and overall structure and is usually done after an early draft of the manuscript.
  • Copyediting – or ‘line editing’ is a process that involves many elements. It includes correcting spelling, grammar, punctuation, syntax, and word choice and ensuring consistency and clarity. This stage is usually done after you’ve polished your manuscript to the best of your ability.
  • Proofreading – the final opportunity to catch any mistakes missed by the copyeditor or made during typesetting. It is usually done on the proof copy of your book, whether in print or on-screen.

Style Guides

A style guide is the holy bible of grammar, spelling, punctuation. style, wording, and formatting for writers and editors. It’s a comprehensive guide to the decisions made about your manuscript concerning language, formatting, and design. If you don’t already have one on your desk, I highly recommend it. The New Oxford Style Manual contains Hart’s Rules as well as the Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. The great thing about it is that both UK and US rules are given.

There are many other style guides out there, some of which are specialized (journalism, for example). The Chicago Manual of Style is a popular one in the US.

Style Sheets

The editing process can start before you even begin writing with a well-designed style sheet. A style sheet lists your preferences regarding spelling, punctuation, and grammar rules. It provides descriptions of your main characters, geography, world-building, etc., to ensure consistency throughout your novel. It’s a handy guide to have sitting nearby while you write to ensure that your brown-eyed character doesn’t end up with blue eyes in chapter 14.

Style Sheet Example

Download the Style Sheet Template PDF or email to request the Microsoft Word version (which you can edit to suit your needs).

When it comes time to edit your novel, not only will you appreciate having your Style Sheet, but your editor will as well. They’ll use it to ensure consistency throughout your manuscript.

More tips and tricks are coming soon. In the meantime, if you have any editing-related questions, please leave them in the comments below. That way anyone else reading this post can benefit from the questions and answers as well.

Happy editing,


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