Tips for Self-Editing by Catherine McCarthy – Writing Tips

Tips for Self-Editing by Catherine McCarthy – Writing Tips

We have a new segment on the blog which will be coming to you weekly throughout 2022 called Writing Tips. Each week we will feature tips from authors on a variety of subjects that are there to help authors and new writers.

Our seventh post is from author Catherine McCarthy on the subject ‘Tips for Self-Editing‘. This post contains affiliate links.

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Tips for Self-Editing

First of all, I would like to offer my thanks to Stacey for inviting me to contribute to this series on writing tips.

The topic I am going to discuss is how to improve your self-editing skills, and I want to begin by stating that while the ability to self-edit is vital it does not in any way undermine the benefits of hiring a good editor or proof-reader.

Having said that, there is a lot you can do yourself before handing your work over to a professional. Self-editing skills are a vital part of publishing. No reader should pay for something slapdash. Not only is it unfair, but you run the risk of gaining a reputation for putting out poor quality work and that is not what you want, is it?

We all have our own methods when it comes to writing and editing. Some people write several drafts, and that is fine. Personally, I only ever write one draft, but I work on improving that draft over and over again before sending it to anyone else, for example, a beta reader.

One final note before I begin: it is not the responsibility of a beta reader to proofread your work. By all means allow them to highlight errors, but the responsibility of cleaning up your manuscript is yours, not theirs.

So, now for my personal tips:

Be prepared to do a minimum of four or five rounds of editing and revision before sending it to someone else to read. During each round, focus on something specific, e.g. line editing, weak sentences, grammar and punctuation, repetition etc.

Be mindful of words you tend to overuse (often referred to as filter words). Build up a personal list, then during one of your editing rounds use the ‘find and replace’ tool and highlight those words in different colours. Delete or change those you don’t need or those that are repeated too often. Repetition and overuse of filter words such as saw, could, wondered, etc. can slow the pace of your story and seriously weaken it.

Also, be aware of adverbs. I’m not in the camp of a total ban, but if you use them make sure they earn their place. The same goes for qualifiers (for example: that, very, so etc.). Overuse of these words can result in passive voice. Oh, and while we’re on the subject of passive voice, aim to use powerful verbs rather than those from the verb family ‘to be’, i.e. is/was etc. There are lots of articles on passive voice available online and they are well worth a read.

Our eyes get used to seeing text in one particular format, so if you’re using Times New Roman and font size 12, for example, change the whole manuscript to a different font and perhaps font size, then read it again. Or, another similar tip is to change the colour of the font. You’ll be surprised how many errors you’ll find by doing this. It’s a visual trick.

If you always edit on the same device, e.g. your laptop, then for one round of editing use a different device, a kindle or phone, perhaps. It’s all about encouraging the brain to stray from its comfort zone. Better still, if you can afford the ink, print it out.

If I could only give one tip, then it would be this one…


Yes, the whole thing, and preferably twice, once to yourself and once to an audience. Your audience could be your partner or even the cat or a teddy bear, whatever takes your fancy. When you read, it’s vital you do so with expression. Imagine you’ve been invited to read your story to a live audience. You wouldn’t read in a monotone voice, would you? Hate the sound of your own voice? Tough, because trust me, this is by far the best way to improve your script. By doing this you are far more likely to hear things such as repetition, poor sentence fluency and flow.

I’m fortunate in this respect, because having been a primary school teacher I’m used to reading to an audience. I’m also fortunate in that my husband is a good listener and an astute critic. Whether it’s a short story or a novel, once I feel the piece is ready, I always read it through to him.

Have a notepad and pen or phone memo at hand and note all the changes you want to make, then as soon as possible, while they’re still fresh in your mind, go back and do those edits.
And there you have it. Good luck, and happy editing!

About the Author

Catherine McCarthy Tips for Self Editing

Catherine McCarthy is a Welsh writer of dark tales with macabre melodies.

She is the author of the short story collections Door and other twisted tales and Mists and Megaliths, and the novella, Immortelle, published by Off Limits Press July 2021.

Her work has been published by such places as Brigids Gate Press, Gallery for the Curious, and British Fantasy Horizons.

When she is not writing she may be found hiking the Welsh coast path or huddled among ancient gravestones reading Machen or Poe.

Author Links


Immortelle by Catherine McCarthy


Author – Catherine McCarthy
Publisher – Off Limits Press LLC
Pages – 120
Release Date – 12th November 2021
ISBN 13 – 978-1737463306
Format – ebook, paperback

Synopsis writing tips 2022

When Elinor’s daughter, Rowena, is found poisoned and dead in an animal trough, Elinor is sure the local parish priest is to blame.

A ceramic artist by trade and influenced by her late grandmother’s interest in supernatural magic, Elinor crafts an immortelle for Rowena’s grave and attempts to capture the girl’s spirit in the clay model of a starling. Soon she is inundated with requests for immortelles and the more immersed in the craft she becomes, the greater her powers grow.

As the dead share their secrets with grieving Elinor, she learns the sordid truth of what happened to her beloved daughter and plots a revenge so hideous, it must be kept a secret forever.

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3 Responses

  1. DJ Sakata says:

    These are brilliant suggestions – I have a hard time editing my own nonsense

  2. vidya says:

    Love these much-needed tips! Thank you

  3. Nadene says:

    Awesome tips. Thanks for sharing.