We are in the midst of a digital revolution today, when it’s easier than ever to break into print. Yet the consensus in the publishing industry remains where it always has been: to be successful as a writer you will need a professional editor to provide the necessary perspective, the eye for detail that will inevitably escape the author’s own gaze.
That said, you can benefit by doing the best job you can, self-editing your own work before paying a professional. At the very least, you will save money by correcting preventable errors before hiring someone else to do the same. With that advantage in mind, I offer here a few tips and resources for writers who are willing to take the time to put their own best work forward before the final stage of paid editing.
Too often writers attempt to follow grammar “rules” they were taught in grade school, only to mix them up, transpose one rule onto another, or miss the evolution of language and convention past former standards. The bottom line is, rules are tools, made to achieve what you should aim for above all: clarity.
Read your own work aloud. Especially with dialogue, you will be able to catch false notes, repetitive words, awkward rhythm and punctuation. Printing a hard copy to read from adds the additional, visual dimension to this step, allowing you to catch errors that your eyes glaze over on the computer screen.
One of the most valuable steps you can take, as a writer preparing your manuscript for publication, is to get input and feedback from your peers: literate friends, other writers, people you can exchange work with via online literary forums. Live and written feedback through a local writers group, or group connecting online, can offer invaluable pointers and perspective as well as support in improving your work and advancing your career. You can find a critique partner with whom to exchange work in progress, and if you work well together it can develop into a long-term working relationship beneficial to both. Or you can send out your manuscript between drafts to a number of people you connect with as beta readers, who are willing to read your book and offer feedback at whatever level you might find useful – from catching typos, to telling you the character with the Southern accent just ain’t cuttin’ it.