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Self-Editing Resources for First-Time or New Writers


Ask anyone who writes professionally or personally, and they’ll say that it’s hard – really hard – to find their own writing mistakes. When you are your own editor, it’s tough to remain objective and read your work with fresh eyes.

Difficult is not the same as impossible, however. You can self-edit if you know what to look for, and you develop a process. If you’re a first-time author or new to writing professionally, you may have many questions about how to edit, what to edit, and when (what stages in your writing) to edit.

We’ve got the answers you need with resources recommended by professional book editors.

Here are some fabulous self-editing resources to invest your time in. If you want a break from the written word, this list includes podcasts to check out as well.

Self-Editing: The Writing Process

Self-editing for Self-publishers: Incorporating: A Style Guide for Fiction by Richard Bradburn

Indie authors looking to self-publish will find this resource particularly useful. It describes a three-stage editing process similar to the traditionally published one, from structural to sentence level to proofreading.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition by Renni Brown and Dave King

Two professional editors have written this book which teaches you editing techniques on exposition, point of view, and dialogue. They provide many examples taken from manuscripts that they have edited.

Understanding Show, Don’t Tell And Really Getting It by Janice Hardy

This award-winning author uses examples to demonstrate the difference between showing, not telling, when writing a story. She helps authors understand the balance between backstory, description, and narrative.

Revising Your Novel: First Draft to Finished Draft: A Step-by-step Guide to Revising Your Novel by Janice Hardy

This book tackles the big-picture problems that can go wrong with a novel. It shows how to review character and point of view issues, plot structure problems, and setting problems. You will learn to write stronger prose and build better character arcs and compelling plots.

Cover to Cover What First-Time Authors Need to Know about Editing by Sandra Wendel

After writing your first book, read this book to learn what to do next, before you work with an editor and prepare the book for production and publication. This is an important resource if you know little to nothing about the publication process.

Troubleshooting Your Novel Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems by Steven James

This hands-on guide takes you through the steps that will increase your chances of selling your manuscript to a publisher or gathering an audience for your book. Topics covered include story progression, character development, narrative techniques, and troubleshooting common issues.

Write Great Fiction – Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell

If you struggle with creating a plot that engages your readers, this is a resource to add to your library. The book tackles common plot problems, developing story structure, and how to create strong beginnings, middles, and ends to your story.

Keys to Great Writing Revised and Expanded Mastering the Elements of Composition and Revision by Stephen Wilbers and Faith Sullivan

The writing process can be daunting. This book provides helpful techniques for the entire writing process, from prewriting to proofreading. It also has exercises to strengthen your writing skills from the sentence to the paragraph level.

The Magic of Fiction Crafting Words Into Story: The Writer’s Guide to Writing & Editing by Beth Hill

This handbook for the writing and editing process is a valuable resource on all aspects of writing and editing. It covers writing and self-editing your own stories, whether you are a first-time or experienced author. 

Self-Editing at a Sentence Level

The Best Punctuation Book, Period by June Casagrande

Whether you write for an online, print, academic, or business audience, this quick reference guide covers your questions about punctuation for all styles, including AP (Associated Press), MLA (Modern Language Association), APA (American Psychological Association), and Chicago Manual of Style.

Editing Fiction at Sentence Level by Louise Harnby

This book teaches you how to self-edit your manuscript at the sentence level, from narrative to dialogue. Examples are also provided to demonstrate the lessons.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss

This resource covers grammar and punctuation insights using humor and history. It is clear from this book that a simple comma or apostrophe can completely alter the meaning of a sentence – sometimes in a hilarious way.

Artful Sentences Syntax as Style by Virginia Tufte

This book breaks down standard sentence patterns and forms to show how they convey meaning. New writers and those who love language will find this book fascinating.

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and Elwyn Brooks White

Among writing manuals, this book is considered a classic. It even has its own Wikipedia entry! This guide covers good writing and composition principles, lists commonly misused words and expressions, and lists often misspelled words.

Self-Editing Resources: Podcasts

The Midnight Quill Podcast hosted by writers T. C. Emerys, M. J. Glenn and Maisy Osbon

Listen to discussions about writing techniques, worldbuilding and self-publishing, with new episodes every week.

The Editing Podcast hosted by Louise Harnby and Denise Cowle

Explore practical tips and insights for editors and proofreaders. This podcast is available in 60 countries.

Key Takeaways

New writers published authors will find value in self-editing resources. These books cover important topics in the editing and writing process.

Experienced writers will benefit from the review and the checklists, and new writers finishing their first manuscript will benefit from the insight and tips.

For some of the latest advice on editing, writers and editors can stream podcasts from multiple sources, such as YouTube and apps.

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