Friday, August 03, 2012


Ernest Hemingway step aside because you think you’ve written the newest Great American Novel. Sorry to deflate your ego, but…

Good writing will not get any easier if you won’t work at it. It’s called learning your craft. So sit back, novice, grab your favorite red pen and get educated.

Self-editing is one of the hardest aspects of writing. It’s now time to delete all those beautiful words full of your soul. Can’t do it? Won’t get published.

There are several steps in editing and not necessarily in this order;

1. Formatting
2. Spell check
3. Line edit
4. Point of View
5. Punctuation
6. Setting the chapter
7. Tighten the writing
8. Redundancies
9. Passive writing
10. Syntax
11. Get rid of the crap

We’ll take them one at a time to give each point proper consideration.


The writing industry has common format requirements. Most publishers want the submission in;

• Times New Roman or Courier. Font is 12 pt.
• Use a 1” margin on all sides.
• Double-space the entire book.
• Start each new chapter on its own page, one-third of the way down.
• Begin the body of the chapter four lines under the chapter title.
• Indent is either 0.03” or 0.05” for each new paragraph

I use Microsoft Word. All of this can be preset. Open your manuscript to Home. Click Paragraph on your toolbar. You’ll find everything you need to format successfully under Indents and Spacing.

If you’re really new to all this and haven’t done the formatting before you typed your novel, it’s easy to fix. Highlight the manuscript, then click Paragraph on your toolbar and continue with the above directions.

Do not take my instructions as Gospel. You should know the publisher you’re striving to impress. Go onto their website and print out their complete Guidelines, then do exactly as they instruct.


Aah, the writer’s best friend. No way, kids. Spell Check is great for the basics, but it can’t tell the difference between ‘buy’ and ‘by’. As you’re reading your work for the nineteenth time you’ll uncover misused words. At that time make the corrections. Do not procrastinate.

After you’ve formatted the novel, return to the toolbar and click on Spell Check. As it scans your work it will come up with incorrect spelling and phrasing. Be sure of what you want changed. Do not arbitrarily accept all the corrections.

Over the years, I’ve found if I read my manuscript backwards spelling errors jump right off the page. The backwards action stops my brain from assuming what I wrote is correct. All you do is read and edit the last page first, then proceed forward, one page at a time.


It’s a simple procedure, but very tedious. You must line edit carefully before you submit to a publisher. You have about thirty seconds to catch the editor’s eye and entice them to read more of your book. If he or she sees typos, incorrect words (buy vs. by), or skewed sentence structures, it’s the rejection pile for your baby. And by all means, pay close attention to your punctuation.

This is how you do it;

• Print out a hard copy
• Grab a 12 inch ruler.
• Lay it under line one.
• Read each word slowly. Aloud is best.
• Focus
• Make the corrections using a colored pen on the hard copy.
• Insert the corrections into your computer text.
• Take breaks or your mind won’t see the flaws.


We’ve discussed these topics in previous weeks. Go back through the Friday posts if you’re not sure on a particular step to locate the lecture.


You’re aghast anyone would dare to think your work is less than stellar. Get over yourself. I’d bet my next royalty check Stephen King, James Patterson, and Kathy Reichs still go through the same process yours truly does to make their book as good as possible. And that process is all the above and my last words of wisdom;

If it doesn’t move your story forward, it is crap. Get rid of it.

Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be back Monday with Annie Seaton. Until then...

Happy Writing!

Sloane Taylor


  1. Love this! Move it or lose it - get rid of the crap! Cheers! Tweeted and shared!

    1. I cringed at "get rid of the crap."

      Of all the self-editing stages, that one hurts the most. There's just something contrary to nature about slashing word count.

    2. I know exactly what you mean, Holley! I live and write by word count. When my critique pals get their hands on my WIP, I just want to sob.

  2. Nice one--ditto, shared and tweeted

  3. Nice post and thank you. I didn't know about starting 4 lines down from the chapter heading. I learn something new every day from my fellow writers.

    1. You're very welcome, Patti. Thank you for stopping in and posting.:)

  4. Thanks, Sloane, for another interesting blog. I'd add searching for repeating words and phrases, too. For me, it's phrases.

    1. You're right, Rhea, and thanks for pointing it out!! I should have included both of them. I'll amend my original lecture.

  5. Thanks Sloane. It's a really good post. People (includng me) often forget that getting that first draft done is the easy part. The hard work comes in at editing for the reasons you cite. It's pretty close to the editing process I go through, although I've never gotten the nack for the backwards reading.

    1. You're welcome, Nancy.:) You're absolutely right, the first draft is easy especially if you can turn off that dreaded internal editor. I had to teach myself to read backwards otherwise I skimmed my WIP instead of reading it.:(

  6. Posted on my blog and tweeted!

    1. THANK YOU!!! It's greatly appreciated.

  7. I just discovered your blog. Thank you so much for all the helpful tips and hints. I find I am guilty of most of the do nots of self editing. I do have a question about critique groups. How do you go about joining one? I don't know any fellow writers and my friends and family aren't exactly experts in the area. Thanks again for the great posts!

    1. Welcome, The Sisters, glad you found me and liked the blog.:) Google critique groups. It will bring up dozens of sites that offer recommendations on how to select a critique group, where to find them, and many actual groups you can join. Good luck, ladies, and please let me know how it goes.

  8. Get rid of the crap may be the hardest for a writer to take, but it's great advice. Your manuscript will be much better for it!

  9. You're right, Margaret, deleting the crap is hard. It just depends on how much a writer wants to be published as to whether they'll do the right thing.:)