It’s never easy to edit your own work. However, it can be done and should be done, because there is no better way to improve your writing than to find your own mistakes, bad habits, and weaknesses, whether it’s a dependence of adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases, or cardboard characters. Here are some things to watch for.
IDEAS for editing. Make sure your story is balanced with the appropriate amount of Imagery; Dialog; Emotion; Action; Suspense.
Reading your story aloud is an excellent editing device. If nothing else, read the dialog out loud to make sure it’s authentic.
Editing is essential, but it’s extremely difficult to edit your own work. If you can’t afford an editor, arrange a beta exchange with another author. Just make sure both of you are skilled enough to do the job.
Read your work out loud as part of your editing process. If you find yourself saying something different than what’s written, reword it accordingly. If it’s awkward when read aloud, it’s not the best wording.
Understand there are several types of editors. Proofreaders look for typos. Copy editors look at punctuation and grammar. Line editors look at everything. Content editors look at plot & characterizations. More here.
Always check your manuscript for over-used words and phrases, such as: so, just, in order to, therefore, or any of your personal favorites. It’s easy to fall in love with a newly discovered word, then use it so much it annoys your readers.
Scrutinize all prepositional phrases to decide if they’re needed or whether the sentence can be reworded to avoid them. If they’re redundant in any way, zap those suckers out of there!
Know the different types of editing, especially if you hire an editor. Otherwise, you may be disappointed or not get your money’s worth. Here’s an outstanding blog on the subject.
Always spellcheck your work, especially after completing each edit. Your fingers have a mind of their own on the keyboard and don’t always do what your brain thinks. A grammar checker should find missing or misused words.
Be aware of your most common typos. Mine are typing “you” instead of “your” or “the” instead of “that”. Be aware that a simple spellchecker may sometimes miss such goofs.
First drafts tend to be unbalanced, depending on your style. They may have too much or too little of certain elements. For your second draft, start by checking how your IDEAS are presented for balance: Imagery; Dialog; Emotion; Action; Suspense.
When you get to what you think is your final draft, start tightening your story by trimming adverbs, adjectives, and prepositional phrases. Many adverbs go away when you select the correct verb.
Missing words are difficult for the author and sometimes even editors to catch, but not an alert reader. When reading over your manuscript, do so slowly enough to note each word is indeed written as opposed to assumed.
When rewording a sentence, make sure you take out any words that are no longer needed. Most of the editing faux pas examples I find involve extraneous words that weren’t deleted when a change was made.