3 Mistakes to Avoid While Editing

Writing a book is tiresome, grueling work, full of revising, rewriting, and, sometimes, redoing completely. To write a book is no small feat: it takes constant patience, dedication, and passion. It can take weeks, months, or even years to finish your book. And once you’ve written that last sentence—once you’ve placed that long-awaited “The End” at the bottom of the page—your work has really just begun. Now it’s time to edit! If you’re a self-published author, more likely than not you are your own editor, and editing is crucial to the publishing process. No one can skip it. Your credibility as an author rests upon your ability to self-edit and to ask others to proof your work. If you write a story that is so good, so capturing, yet it is full of typos and punctuation errors, you completely nullify all of your hard work. You owe it to your work to take the time to edit it properly and completely. The editing process isn’t half as fun as the actual writing, but it’s equally as important. In order to edit your manuscript properly, ensuring a smooth transition into publication and reception, be sure to avoid these three key mistakes.

1. Not cutting what needs to be cut.

William Faulkner once said, “In writing, you must kill your darlings.” Now, who are we to ignore the sage advice of the genius who wrote As I Lay Dying, The Sound and the Fury, and more? What Faulkner is telling us to do is not something easily done: cut what needs to be cut, even if it’s something you’re quite proud or something you love. As writers, we can often be blinded by our proximity to the story. If a piece of dialogue, a scenario, or a character doesn’t advance or fit cleanly into the story line, even if you love it, even if you spent all night writing it, you must edit it out for the sake of the story. You must kill your darlings.

2. Not getting a second opinion. Or a third. Or a fourth.

Until this point, you have probably been the only person to read manuscript. This means you’re entirely too close to the project. You’ve stared at these words for ages, trying to make them into a viable and gripping story. And even though you know this manuscript inside and out, that isn’t necessarily the best bias to take into the editing process. It is pertinent that you get a second set of eyes—or a third, or a fourth, just to be safe—to edit and proofread your work. You’d be surprised how many errors could be hiding within your work, gone unseen by you. If you’re lucky enough to be part of a community of writers, have them workshop your manuscript. If not, having just one person read through and edit it can mean the difference between a bestseller and a flop.

3. Not admitting when a manuscript isn’t ready for publishing.

Like killing your darlings, it can be difficult—even downright impossible—to admit when your work isn’t ready. Being a writer requires an inhuman amount of patience. That being said, be patient with your manuscript. Sometimes, even if you think it’s ready for publication, it might not be, and that’s all right! Just because your work isn’t ready for printing right now doesn’t mean it won’t ever be ready. Knowing when to take a step back and give your work time to grow is key to being a good writer. It’s better to wait than to publish an immature manuscript.

In the end, it is still your story. That means if you receive edits from someone that you don’t necessarily agree with or like, you don’t have to implement them. However, you could receive edits that you hadn’t even thought of that make the story better. Much can be revealed about a story in the editing process. You owe it to your story to ensure it gets the edits it deserves.


  1. jules on November 11, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    Its a must to get someone else to read your manuscript. Even for simple typos , commas etc. Just maybe – you made the mistake of placing chapter 3 before chapter 2 !

  2. Susan Lapp-Mellott on November 11, 2016 at 6:11 pm

    I am a self published author, who uses your company to print my manuscripts. Thank you for you do a wonderful job.

    As far as editing, I can attest that it’s very hard to edit a story. I read all the time and I find that I “surface” read, or whatever you want to call it. Oh, I guess I read the sentence but not each word. I edit my own work and I have to read out loud and say each word independently. People don’t realize just how hard it is to do that, or to proof. Thanks for the suggestions.

    • Cynara Shelton on January 4, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      I’ve actually copied text into “Google Translate” and let the app read it back to me. (English to English) Of course, it’s monotone, but you’d be surprised at what you can hear that way.

  3. GK Lamb on November 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm

    DiggyPod published my family genealogy, 220+ pages.
    I investigated lots of POD thru the internet and selected Diggpod after I received the free booklet “How to Publish”.

    A very Professional outfit, I have recommended DiggPod with-
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  4. […] of December to edit that draft. For tips on the editing process, read last last week’s blog, “3 Mistakes to Avoid While Editing.” After that, you know where to find […]

  5. carl m branch on November 17, 2016 at 9:39 pm

    Just a beginner. But, I do have an accumulation of your e-mails, and am finding them interesting, and most likely will be beneficial when I start writing my book.
    At this point in time, am trying to get on track after being out of town for several weeks helping to clean up damage from Hurricane Matthew.
    Looking forward to working with you.
    Sincerely yours,
    Carl Branch

    • Hannah Gordon on November 18, 2016 at 9:40 am

      We look forward to working with you as well!

  6. DL Bigelow on November 21, 2016 at 11:02 am

    I did it! After five years I finished my Trilogy this month, now the hard part…editing and printing!

    • Hannah Gordon on November 21, 2016 at 1:17 pm

      Congrats! You know where to find us when you’re done editing!

  7. […] Of course, all this hard work is for naught if you don’t edit as well. Once you’re done bringing your work to life, keep it alive by editing it to perfection. […]

  8. […] Make sure your manuscript is in tip-top shape before you take it to the printing company. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: the last thing you want is to receive your self-published book to find it […]

  9. Workshopping Self-Published Writing | DiggyPOD Blog on February 10, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    […] part is vital. Sometimes writers are just too close to their work to see it’s flaws. This is why the transition from writer to editor can be awkward sometimes. Being so close to the work, it can be hard to admit that it needs more […]

  10. […] How to Edit Your Book […]

  11. […] draft of your novel. Maybe it’s to draft a new collection of stories or poems. Or maybe it’s to edit an almost-finished project. If you set a specific goal in mind, you’re more likely to achieve that […]

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