creative writing

How to Self Edit (my method)

I have been through many drafts of my young adult, science fiction novel High School Rocket Science (For Extraterrestrial Use Only). (Yes, I’m advertising the book.) In what I hope will be my final draft, I developed a self-editing method that seems to work for me:

  1. After printing the novel, I use a pencil to mark changes chapter by chapter.
  2. As I finish a few chapters, I update each one in MS Word.
  3. I go through several slow reads of each chapter on the computer screen until I no longer find things to change.
  4. I review each chapter separately through MS Word’s Spelling & Grammar, Grammarly, and ProWritingAid. (The last two are by subscription.)

This self-editing method is a multi-dimensional way to help me find errors I missed in past edits. It lets me look at my novel in three different ways:

  • paper copy
  • computer screen
  • through a software program

This self-editing method is designed for final drafts. I previously had my novel edited by a critique group and I paid a developmental editor. I realize I am getting more benefit from my current editing method.

My error is that I should have completed editing using this method before having another person look at my novel. I feel the advice from the critique group and the paid editor has been wasted since I am changing their edits to fit the changes I am making.

At least I’ll know for my next novel.

new new writing projects

I do a lot of editing on stories I wrote. Recently, I noticed that I haven’t written anything new for a long time. Is editing the same as new writing?

I think it depends on the editing. Some of the changes to what I wrote are just like writing something new. The finished project does not look like anything I started off with. Of course, that’s not saying anything good about what I initially wrote.

Some writers are good at writing something new and others are better at editing. When writing new stories, some of it needs a lot of editing and others not. None of this really matters (however).

All stories go through the same process of starting with an idea, becoming new writing, and entering the editing stage until the writer achieves a finished product. It matters more that something is written that communicates successfully what the writer meant to say.


When writing essays or other writings, I try to focus on boundaries. I try to stay inside the theme or main point I’m writing about. Who has ever accomplished this in their first draft?

I rarely have. As an example, I wandered around in writing this blog. At some point I realized I had reached 300 words, but not the ending. I went back and extracted the alternative paths I took, without knowing I took them. I saved these additional paths in another file for a future blog.

The point is to stick to the point. I try to focus on what should be written and take out what should be left for another writing. I think that in an essay or any type of writing there should always be one primary purpose, a goal to reach, a place to land on. The reader wants this (I want this as a reader). It’s not that easy, I know.

It takes practice writing concise essays, short stories, or other limited writings. Yet, doing so helps the writer learn how to focus on what to say. A billion years ago when I started to write as a writer, I attempted a novel (that I still have). I realized I was being wordy like I’ve seen in too many other novels since. I decided to write short stories so I could be more efficient.

By writing short stories I learned to conserve words, maintain focus, and tell the story without adding things that didn’t belong.

It doesn’t matter what a writer writes as long as they know where to go and get there in the most direct path as possible. There will be other times to write about those other paths attempted.

Does every story need a villain?

The writing community goes back and forth about whether a story needs a villain or not. Some people want a villain to make the hero become a hero. They believe a villain promotes action, conflict, romance, and other plot trends.

In some genres, this is true. The story must have a villain to succeed. However, in many stories a villain is not necessary and I do not think a writer should worry about creating one all the time.

A story needs at least one protagonist attempting to accomplish at least one goal. The writer creates conflict through the use of obstacles making the accomplishment toward the goal a challenge. The obstacles do not have to be a bad person.

Obstacles can be things as weather, environment, or other natural occurrences. They can be organizations like companies or governments. Or, they can be the culture and society who rule over the protagonist.

A villain is an easy way to form obstacles, host conflict, and create action. It is a simple way for a writer to expand the story and keep the interests of a reader. I do not write stories with villains.

While the back and forth between a hero and villain can make a good plot, I try to read something with broader scope and maybe not as predictable as the antics of two people fighting.

I write stories without villains to complicate my protagonist’s approach to achieving their goals. I want the person to confront obstacles bigger than another person. Even if those obstacles are the protagonist own doing and they are the villain.