October 1, 2014

5 Quick Self-Editing Tips: #IWSG

The Insecure Writer's Support Group (or IWSG) is a wonderful group put together by the amazing Alex J. Cavanaugh (which now has an equally cool Facebook group). 

The first Wednesday of each month is the perfect opportunity to share my insecurities on the #IWSG therapy couch, get encouragement and support about such insecurities, and to read how other writers are faring. 

Today is a special day for IWSG. From Alex's blog:

Today marks the one year anniversary since the IWSG site and Facebook group opened. We invite all IWSG members, Facebook members, and followers to contribute to The IWSG Guide to Publishing and Beyond, whether you are a writer on the journey or a published author. Post your contribution today or email your submission to the IWSG or me. Full details posted today at the IWSG site.

Month after month, many IWSG posts touch on topics related to producing quality work. While there's no all-encompassing advice to ensure a 5-star hit, one of the most important parts of publishing is...


In a perfect world, we'd all have the disposable money to hire editors. At a minimum, I think it's money well spent to hire a proofreader, however. Still, you'll need to self-edit first. There's so much I can say on the topic, but I'll keep it short and sweet.

5 Quick Self-Editing Tips

1. Walk Away

It sounds simple, but let your manuscript breathe. The closer we are to the project, the harder it will be to edit. Our brain will fill in the gaps and simply read what we intended.

2. Read Out Loud

Another way to overcome knowing our material is to read it out loud. This is particularly effective with dialog. Do you stumble when you read it? If so, it's not natural. This is also an excellent way to pick up missing words or awkward sentences.

3. Commas

Commas, in my opinion as an editor, are the most misused punctuation mark. Either they are overused, weighing down sentences, or severely lacking, losing the reader in a muddy wasteland of words. 

Couple of quick comma pointers:

- Can it stand alone?

It was snowing hard, creating a foggy sky of white. (creating on cannot stand alone = comma)
My favorite sport is lacrosse; it's challenged and fast-paced. (it's on could stand alone = ;)

- City and State/City and Country

He returned to San Francisco, California, after a fun trip to Paris, France, to see friends. (after both city & state, city & country)

- Dates

Amy will return for the June 12, 2015, graduation.
Amy will return for the June 2015 graduation.
(use comma after date and year -- if only month and year, no commas)

- Quotes

Commas go within quotation marks. " ," not " ", 

4. Search & Find

If you know you have problem areas (overuse that, very, really, just), do a Search & Find to pinpoint issues and fix them. Also, watch out for commonly misused words. Examples: their/they're/there, lose/loose, its/it's, your/you're, led/lead, lie/lay (lay is the past tense of lie -- crazy,  I know!), effect/affect, reign/rein, piqued/peaked/peeked. Search and destroy.

5. Read

Sounds so simple, doesn't it? Yet, it's so important. Train your eyes to spot issues and to recognize beautiful wording. It really helps. Read for pleasure, read fellow writers' work and offer critique, and help your kids edit their papers (this helps me!).

I plan to do a running series of common editing issues--highlighting ones I find when I edit other writers' novels, as well as my own. Please let me know any issues you'd like to see covered.

For Anthology purposes, should my entry be used: 

I'm Tia Silverthorne Bach, award-winning author of Women's Fiction and Young Adult novels, and an editor at Indie Books Gone Wild. My website: http://www.tiabach.com/

I give permission for my entry to be included in the eBook compilation without royalties and/or separate compensation.


Joylene Nowell Butler said...

My favourite is: Let's eat grandma! LOL. Hi, Tia. Happy IWSG.

Donna McDine said...

Thanks for the tips! Especially comma usage. Much appreciated!

Best regards,
Donna McDine
Award-winning Children’s Author
Ignite Curiosity in your child through reading!
Write What Inspires You Blog

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Commas! A curse upon the mark! LOL To comma or not to comma always stalls me when I edit.

Jessica Ferguson said...

Wonderful, helpful post! I'm pretty horrible with commas! ;)

Tia Bach said...

Commas are tricky buggers! But, I'd rather see them used sparingly than, way, too, often. If you know what I mean. ;-)

Anonymous said...

These were wonderful self-editing tips. Thanks so much for sharing. I will definitely be able to use these. Have a great night! Eva

Anonymous said...

Commas are my bane. I tried once to go over the rules and the apply it to my writing. I had no idea if I was right or not. In the end, I hired an editor because I just couldn't wrap my head around it. BUT, yes there is one of those, I have learned a little from looking at her edits on my stories. My main problem was applying to rules to my own writing with examples I didn't write. I couldn't get that!

Diane Burton said...

Great tips. We all need reminders.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

This will make a great addition to the book.

Unknown said...

Read Aloud is absolutely the best tip ever. I listen to audiobooks and you can really hear when the language just isn't working.

Jo Michaels said...

Super duper post, Tia! Great tips :) Looks like the IWSG couch is crowded. LOL! HUGS!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I've learned to use the search and find as I do have pet words that crop up way too often. And reading aloud is a great way to find crappy dialogue.
Thanks for contributing to the book!

Mary Aalgaard said...

It's hard to find errors in our own writing, so having a skilled reader look at it is important.
Play off the Page

Gwen Gardner said...

Excellent advice. The one thing that will make me put down a book is too many typos. When I come across a few, then I start looking for them. Not the point of reading, LOL!