How To Self-Edit Your Novel: First Draft

Updated: Apr 24, 2020

Do you love to write but hate to edit? Do you look at your completed first draft and feel overwhelmed with where to start? Let me give you a word of encouragement and some tips to get that red pen in your hand with confidence. Then, I'll give you eleven tips to do today to get you started on editing your first draft!



Do you love to write but hate to edit?  Do you look at your completed first draft and feel overwhelmed with where to start? Let me give you a word of encouragement, and some tips to get that red pen in your hand with confidence. Then, I'll give you eleven tips to do today to get you started on editing your first draft! Jump in the Way with Katrina D Hamel. Image Credit to Jeshoots-com on Unsplash

First off, I've been where you are!

I've been busy editing my novel for months now. I walked into this process feeling just as overwhelmed as you do right now. I am by no means a "real" editor, but I have learned so much through the process of preparing my novel for publication. And you will too! The effort you put into editing your first novel is a classroom all on its own.


The main tools you absolutely need to self-edit


1. The desire to grow in your writing skills.


2. A willingness to learn.


3. Patience.


Really, that's it! The rest you will learn as you go, and you'll be a better writer for it!


But, won't your publisher hire an editor for you? Why should you learn to self-edit?


To even be considered by a publisher, you need to present a few chapters. If the agent or publisher is stumbling over a clumsy plot, lazy writing, typos, and confusing punctuation, they will toss it to the side and move on to the next submission. We're not talking about perfection, of course. Good editing is about clearing away anything that might distract from the message.


You might need/want to self-publish. In this day and age, it is easier than ever to get your book published all on your own. If you go this route, you need to have your best possible foot forward to stand out among the myriad of self-published novels hitting Amazon's virtual shelves.


If you're paying an editor out of your own pocket, you can save money if they're working with an already polished work. I hired someone to help me with proof-reading, meaning they checked for errors in punctuation and grammar, but that's it.


Self-editing improves your overall skill as a writer. I learned to tidy my plots, sharpen my word choice, and cut away excess so that my story can shine, and I can say what I really mean.


Like I said before, I'm not an editor. I'm just a girl who knuckled down and decided that I can do this! Most of the skills I learned to self-edit came from all over the internet in the form of "writing tips". As writers we can never stop honing our craft.


Okay, let's get to those eleven tips I promised!


First off, the first novel I published is not the first I've tried to write. The reason I was able to crunch out a novel in a year (while parenting four kids and working full-time from home as a child care provider) is because I kept moving forward. Think about it, why rewrite Chapter Six eight times till it's perfect when you might scrap it in the second draft? Getting your first draft finished is the confidence boost you need to believe that YOU are a writer.


In your first draft, the goal is to test the plot and characters.