Terry W. Ervin on Five Strategies for Self-Editing

Editing, especially self-editing, is an important component in the writing process. Realizing there are different layers of editing, ranging from structural concerns down to catching typos, effective strategies are important to a novel’s potential success.
One of the banes of an author self-editing is failing to catch what would be easily identified in the work of another writer. The author’s mind knows what was intended. The character voices and narrative are playing out in the author’s head, masking mistakes. Below are five methods an author might employ to overcome this, especially as a manuscript nears the end of the editing process.

Time Between Edits. 

Time away from a manuscript, hopefully working on another project, allows an author to return with fresh eyes and a mindset more attuned to catch errors at all levels. The distance of time, be it several weeks or months, offers a better perspective. 

Reading Orally. 

An author reading their work out loud, while slower than reading silently, will enable the catching of errors, especially missing words or dialogue that just doesn’t sound right. The author may not need to vocalize. Often just moving the mouth and engaging the voice box is enough. 

Changing Font. 

Many authors have a favorite font to write and even edit in. Switching fonts is a trick that makes the manuscript appear a bit foreign and new. It also resets the end of lines at the margins where mistakes are often overlooked as the eye shifts down to the next line. 

Using Text Speak Programs. 

Again, this is a time-consuming process, but the programs are free and improving. While they lack inflection and occasionally mangle pronunciation, it’s like having someone read a novel back to the author. It may even be more effective than reading orally in catching missing words, switched tense or subject/verb agreement, or dialogue that is somehow off. 

Print out the Manuscript. 

Probably the last step, and a costly one in paper and ink. This tactic steps up the changing of font, as it adds a new medium, even a tactile sense that alters the reading experience and engages the critical eye from a new angle. It’s more like ‘reading a book’ old school. 
Yes, having someone else edit and proof a manuscript is invaluable. And the better prepared the manuscript is ahead of time, the better the end product, as the editor won’t be distracted by what the author could’ve addressed.

Terry W. Ervin II is an English teacher who enjoys writing fantasy and science fiction. 

His First Civilization’s Legacy Series includes FLANK HAWK, BLOOD SWORD and SOUL FORGE, his newest release from Gryphonwood Press. Terry’s debut science fiction novel RELIC TECH is the first in the Crax War Chronicles and his short stories have appeared in over a dozen anthologies and magazines. The genres range from SF and mystery to horror and inspirational. GENRE SHOTGUN is a collection containing all of his previously published short stories.

To contact Terry or learn more about his writing endeavors, visit his website or his blog, Up Around the Corner

Soul Forge: 

Young Enchantress Thereese lays stricken and silent, her vital essence sapped by the Shard Staff, edging ever closer toward death. Supreme Enchantress Thulease refuses to allow her daughter to fade beyond recovery.

To that end, Enchantress Thulease recruits Mercenary Flank Hawk to accompany her as she seeks the legendary Sleeping Sage, and confronts the secretive Svartálfar, known only for their magical prowess and for their menacing cruelty. 
But first, the mercenary and enchantress, and their stalwart company, must survive brutal beasts and ruthless nomads roaming the Southern Continent’s harsh desert. Then, the untamed wilds of the Northern Mountains must be traversed in a final bid to reach their ultimate goal—the Soul Forge.
Even if Flank Hawk and Thulease reach the mythical forge in time, can its magic revive the ailing young enchantress, the one whose life is somehow tied to the Kingdom of Keesee’s ultimate fate?

21 thoughts on “Terry W. Ervin on Five Strategies for Self-Editing

  1. R. Mac Wheeler, that reading backwards, I was told to do that way back in high school with writing essays. Never worked well for me and was more time consuming and distracting. But you're right, it is a viable strategy for some. Thanks for reading!

  2. The importance of pausing in between edits is something I've learned over my writing years. Honestly, I believe it's absolutely critical to my work now. It gives me clearer eyes and ears, and gives me emotional distance from the story.

  3. Distance seriously helps. I know that is one of those things Stephen King is super adamant about. Truth be told, I have never actually read my manuscripts aloud, though I know I should. Maybe I'll read one to my cat…

  4. Awesome. I've used most of those. Changing the background color of the manuscript will also freshen things up. I prefer white on black for eyestrain, and then when I switch back to pass it to critique partners etc, it's different enough to warrant change. I think time is the best self-editing helper though.

    Misha! I'm tagging you in the Writer's Process hop. You've probably already been tagged, but whatever. =)

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