Self-Editing Woes: Getting Your Manuscript Up To Par

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Self-Editing Woes: Getting Your Manuscript Up To Par


One of my favorite feelings in the world is when I type ‘The End’ on a completed manuscript. The exhilarating rush as a mixture of relief and achievement course through my veins is so freaking addictive … I just want to ride that pony for all it’s worth! Like all highs, though, it can’t last forever. Reality comes knocking as soon as the self-editing process begins and then realization says: “Ah, the real work is only starting.”

Since January 19, 2018, I’ve been self-editing the hell out of my next book, and I have to say it’s not been pleasant. I mean, sure, I’ve been through this a few times, but since becoming a full-fledged editor I’m much more critical of my own work. Every time I find one of my pet phrases glaring back at me, I want to drink bleach—true story. The self-loathing is indescribable, folks. Worse yet, I’m nowhere near done with my revisions. This manuscript still needs to go to my editor and to the proofreaders, too, who all have their red pens ready. It’s the stuff masochists live for, but phew. That safe word’s been looking mighty fine lately.

I’m pretty sure all writers feel this way about the self-editing process, and I’m sorry that I can’t help soothe your pain. I can, however, share some editing tricks to help you get your manuscript ready for submission. That helps, right?


  1. Change passive tenses into active tenses.
  2. Eliminate excessive filler words like: ‘just’, ‘now’, ‘okay’, ‘hey’, ‘like’, ‘totally’,  ‘um’, ‘er’, ‘well’, ‘basically’, ‘actually’, ‘seriously’, ‘really’, ‘very’, ‘almost’, ‘quite’, ‘that’.
  3. Identify your pet phrases and avoid overusing them. Pet phrases include: ‘for a moment’, ‘in a while’, ‘just so you know’, ‘and yet’, ‘she turned’, ‘he smiled’, etcetera.
  4. Avoid starting sentences with conjunctions and prepositions.
  5. Try not to end a sentence with a preposition.
  6. Limit your use of exclamation marks to maximize their impact (1 exclamation mark for every 15 pages).
  7. Don’t overuse the ellipse.
  8. Make sure you don’t jump between tenses unecessarily.
  9. Keep the adverbs to a minimum.


If you survived the self-editing process and a professional editor has had their way with your manuscript, there’s a good chance that you probably want to submit it to an agent or publisher. If this is the case, then PLEASE READ AND FOLLOW THE SUBMISSION GUIDELINES. Those guidelines are there for a reason, and if you don’t follow them you will end up in the slush pile. Believe me, you don’t want to be in the slush pile, because you won’t get out of it. So, don’t forget to format your manuscript according to the agent/publisher’s requirements.


Hating the self-editing process is natural, but it doesn’t mean you’re allowed to slack off. Writing is difficult. It’s a full-time job where you need to constantly improve your skills if you want to stay relevant. If you don’t give 100% from conception to completion, your book doesn’t stand a chance. Period. Still … There’s nothing better than creating something out of nothing. So, keep at it. Try harder. Eventually, your efforts will pay off. And if you’re still struggling for whatever reason, consider a professional service to guide you in the right direction.

Until next time,

Monique Snyman

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