When it comes to editing, ideally we would have a professional look over all of our stories, but oftentimes, for different reasons, that just isn’t feasible. If you want to get a story polished and ready for submission or self-publication, then I have five quick tips featuring techniques and things to look for when going over a manuscript.
Keep in mind, these are polish editing techniques and not meant to spot story structure problems or things like that. Those should be taken care of during the revision process.
1.) Read Your Story Out Loud
Reading your story out loud is a great way to help you catch odd phrases or sentences that aren’t fully coherent. Sometimes certain sentences will sound better in our heads than they do in actuality, or sometimes we make edits that change part of a sentence but not the full thing. Reading the story out loud will help you catch these mistakes.
If you’re trying to edit a novel, you may not want to read the whole thing out loud, but you should definitely do so at any point where you feel there might be some strange phrasing. If you have any doubts about how a specific passage sounds, definitely read it out loud.
2.) Get Rid of Repetition: Sentences Starting and Ending with the Same Words
Having too many sentences that start and end with the same words isn’t good. Having sentences set-up like this will make your story sound repetitive. You don’t want your story to sound repetitive. It will bore the reader, and that isn’t good. This is another situation where reading your story out loud can help you out, but even just looking at the text and making sure that you’re mixing up your word choice is important.
3.) Get Rid of Repetition: Unusual Words That Stand Out
This is something that’s sometimes overlooked, but you want to make sure that you aren’t repeating words that aren’t common parlance. For example, if I were to keep using the word parlance it would distract from the text. Parlance isn’t a word people use all the time, and so if it comes up again and again, this could pull the reader out of the story.
If you’re doing this intentionally, say to bolster the tone of the narrator or because one of your characters has a weird catchphrase, that’s fine. But if you just keep throwing out specific parlance because you like the word, then I would try to cut that out.
4.) Vary Sentence Length
You’ll want to make sure that the length and structure of your sentences is different. This helps with the flow of the story. If the cadence and rhythm of the sentences is always the same, your reader is likely to get bored with the story’s voice. Reading the story out loud can help with this, but sentence length should be fairly evident by just looking at the page. Make sure you don’t see a bunch of short sentences or comma-heavy sentences in a row. Unless of course there’s some specific effect you’re going for by structuring your prose that way.
5.) Read Your Story Backwards
Reading your story backwards is a really great way to spot typos. Sometimes when we read our own stories, because we are so familiar with the content, we glaze over what’s in front of us and can miss small misspellings or grammatical errors. Reading the text backwards forces us to engage with it in a new way, and so we’re less likely to overlook these kinds of mistakes.
Let me know if you find these tips helpful. Are there any other editing tips you use that I didn’t mention? Let me know about those as well in the comments. Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time!