10 editing mistakes to avoid

Finished your first draft? Second? Third? Wherever you are in the editing process, here are 10 things you need to consider.

  1. Editing as you write.

It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of editing as you write. Going back and fixing things before you hit the end can be distracting for your writing process. You cannot edit a blank page, but it’s unwise to edit a half-finished page too. Get the manuscript complete before you start editing.

  1. Sweating the small stuff.

It’s satisfying finding all the typos (my favourite is finding an italic full stop!). But in your first, second, maybe even third round of self-editing, don’t worry about the small stuff. Concentrate on the big picture elements: the character, the plot, the narrative.

  1. Not using a style sheet.

Whether it’s big stuff or small stuff, a style sheet can help you keep all the elements of your story consistent. Big picture elements, such as character traits, physical and motivational, setting details and plot details can be recorded on a style sheet, as well as smaller details, such as capitalisation, hyphenation and comma usage.

To download a free style sheet, head to my resources area.

  1. Not leaving enough time before editing.

Congratulations, you’ve finished your manuscript (not editing as you go – see point 1!). Now it’s time to edit. But not quite yet. Give yourself some time before you tackle the edit. Some space between the writing and the editing will give you some fresh eyes as you approach the edit. You’ll be better equipped to read your manuscript as your readers may.

Only you will know the right amount of time but leaving time is essential. But …

  1. Leaving too much time before editing.

Leaving too much time between writing and editing can disrupt your flow. Too much time might leave you feeling disconnected from the manuscript, forgetting your intentions with it and feeling uninspired.

  1. Rushing the editing.

On the subject of time, it’s important not to rush your editing. You want to take time to carefully consider your words. Setting yourself a deadline might be important (it is for me!) but you need to be able to take the time to review your manuscript, make the changes and revise your words.

  1. Holding on to your creation.

Not making cuts, especially when they will help improve the clarity, conciseness and readability, is one of the biggest mistakes in editing. Do you need all those scenes?

  1. Thinking once is enough.

One more read after you have typed “The End” is not going to be enough. Reading through for the different story elements, consistency and typos should be done at different readings. The more readings you do, the more opportunity you have to strengthen your manuscript. You might never achieve the perfect manuscript, but one edit is not enough!

Having said that …  

  1. Keeping editing and not stopping.

Editing, revising, changing, fiddling, adapting … If you want to, you could do forevermore! Learning when to stop editing and accept that it’s time for the next step is tough. You might not get it right first time but that’s okay. Each time you write – and then edit – you’ll learn what works for you.

Over-edited manuscripts can have as many errors and inconsistencies as under-edited ones!

Write without fear. Edit without mercy.
  1. Not hiring a professional.

Lastly, thinking that you can do it all yourself, without hiring a professional editor. A trained, experienced eye can help you edit and improve your manuscript massively, in ways that, by yourself, you cannot see. Editorial professionals can work with you to tighten your words, make your manuscript consistent and clean, ready for your readers.

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Published by Nick Taylor | Editor & Proofreader

Editor and proofreader specialising in LGBTQ+ writing, both fiction and non-fiction.

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