How To Edit A Story

man-at-writing-tableIf you are being published in the traditional way your publishing company will appoint an editor to edit your work. This will probably be someone they have used before and have come to know and trust. Their task will be to search out structural, story and other problems. You should welcome this – a good editor can improve your book hugely and dreams apart no writer is perfect. However, if you are self-publishing, then appointing an editor is one of the many tasks you will find yourself responsible for and like many of these decisions it is not easy.

In an ideal world all writers would be able to afford the best of editors, however we are not in an ideal world and in these recessionary times it is writers and artists who tend to feel the bite in their income and good editors can be expensive and sadly, so can bad ones.

If you have made the decision to try self-publishing and you simply cannot afford an editing service then the question is would you be better off waiting until you are able to afford an editor?  My answer would be yes. No matter how tiny your budget is I think you should prioritize editing. There are people who will perform editing work for you quite cheaply and if you can wait until you can get the money together then that is your best option.


Cheaper editors may be gaining experience by charging less and their work will not be of the highest professional standard yet. But they might be willing to work very hard in order to build their portfolio of writer references and at the very least they can provide a fresh eye to look over your work and therefore see errors that you miss.

Remember, that as writers we can be too close to our work to get a clear view and it is amazing how easy it is to miss glaring errors in our own work! This is important. You don’t want your readers, or other writers posting snide remarks in your reviews.

Before hiring any editor you should ask for samples of their work and check their references by contacting the writers of books they have edited.


If you really don’t have any money then you might consider swapping editing services with a fellow writer who is the same financial boat as you are.  Be very careful here. You don’t want to find yourself trying to edit a complete load of unintelligible rubbish. Badly written work can take a long time to edit so don’t be stung.

Exchange samples first so that you both have a clear idea of the work involved and know that your books are of a similar standard.


If you have no budget at all for editing and don’t know any writers to trade with then you need to call on a friend and ask for a favour. Remember reading and editing a book for you is a big favour so don’t forget to return this favour – you will wear out friends very quickly if you use them and good friends are worth their weight in gold.

Before you ask your friend – use your spell checker and check through your work at least three times before you give it to them. Ask your friend to use a review feature such as the track changes option that Microsoft word has. This gives you the option to accept or reject changes and is an excellent feature for writers.

Don’t reject changes quickly, read carefully – right the way through and assess each suggestion. Sleep on them before acting. Sometimes it is the change we feel most strongly averse to that is the one that really needs to be done.


Don’t throw out suggestions without at least sleeping on them – one of the mistakes some beginner writers make is to think every word of theirs is precious. This is not the case, words can and should be changed and deleted in the interests of improving the work.


The last thing you can do is to read your work aloud. It takes time but believe me you will always, always, find a typo or three, hiding in the small print and if you don’t find it there will be plenty of people out there who will!

At the end of the day my best advice to anyone self-publishing is to pay a good editor – your reputation as a writer is precious and you don’t want to ruin it before you’ve even begun.

Best of luck!


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