A Short Guide to Self-Editing

Sue Dawes, a manuscript editor for The Writers Company, has created a short guide to self-editing. Here is an excerpt, questions you might ask yourself about your characters and dialogue when rewriting:


· Is it clear to the reader what your characters look like? E.g. height, weight, clothing, hair colour, monster qualities (if applicable).

· Do we know what motivates them to act - what drives them?

· Do we know what they fear and love?

· Do they have a tic or habit when nervous? E.g. pushing their hair behind an ear.

· Can each character be easily distinguished, or will the reader be muddled?

· Perhaps they are a bit flat? What could you add to fully realise them?

· Have you avoided stereotypes and other, over-used descriptions (golden hair, twinkling blue eyes etc)?

· Is there consistency? Does Fred suddenly start wearing glasses halfway through the story?


· Is your dialogue authentic in terms of the diction and dialect of your character? Is it age appropriate?

· Does it say what it needs to without over-explaining?

· Have you remembered to remove anything the character already knows? E.g. a child talking to their parent would not say ‘I am your son’ - find a different way to show this information.

· If you strip the dialogue from the text, is your character’s voice recognisable without relying on speech tags?

· Have you used contractions within speech (‘they’ve’ rather than ‘they have’)?

· Is there a good balance of dialogue and description?

For editing tips on structure, POV, layout, language, and setting, or to view this document in its entirety click here.

To find a teacher who can help you with all of the above, go here.

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