An Ultimate Self-Editing Checklist is an exceptionally useful tool for indy and professional editors. From my side of the screen, as an experienced editor, I use a self-editing checklist to ensure I don’t miss anything.

The checklist I currently use is a personal amalgamation of various online resources I’ve collected, as well as my experience as a freelance editor, and has gone through many tweaks over the years.

Let’s take a look!

How to Self-Edit Your Own Work

Before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s essential to clarify what we mean by “self-editing.” Fortunately, I covered that subject in an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago.

That said, self-editing is, by nature, a personalized process that you’ll develop as part of your writing craft. Add it to the toolbox, and keep going. However, the basic process is as follows: 

  1. Read through your manuscript, evaluating the experience from a reader’s perspective.
  2. Begin with big-picture issues, including plot, character, and theme.
  3. Work through each scene, cutting out unnecessary elements.
  4. Streamline your prose, focusing on flow and readability.
  5. Read through your manuscript again, tweaking anything you may have missed.
  6. Conduct a final proofread.

Of course, this is only a generalized run-through. During this process, particularly steps 2 to 4, you’ll need to refer frequently to the Ultimate Self-Editing Checklist below.

The Ultimate Self-Editing Checklist

Without further ado, allow me to present the following Self-Editing Checklist:

  1. PLOT: Does every scene advance the plot? Are there any subplots that would affect the overall plot if they were removed?
  2. CHARACTER: Do all main characters have relatable desires, fears, and motivations? Do they drive the plot? If any can be removed without significantly changing the story, it may be best to remove them.
  3. THEME: Does the piece have an obvious theme that affects all main characters? Is it compelling and challenging to answer?
  4. SCENE: Does every scene serve to advance plot, theme, or character development? Does every scene raise questions and keep readers interested?
  5. PROSE: Are there any sections of purple prose? Bloated dialogue? Passive voice? Adverbs? All must go.

I have…

  • Avoided cliches.
  • Kept consistent Points of View in each scene.
  • Always taken the opportunity to show rather than tell.
  • Avoided similar character names.
  • Mostly avoided dialogue attribution other than said.
  • Removed all unnecessary background, scene setting, and anything that gets in the way of the story’s progression.
  • Omitted needless words (including that, up and down, and other redundancies such as “he shrugged his shoulders“).
  • Rewritten sections that over-explain.
  • Avoided overusing adverbs and adjectives by using strong verbs and nouns from the start.
  • Deleted all unnecessary stage directions.
Ultimate Self-Editing Checklist

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