The Self-Editing Question: Do it or Don’t?

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: How to edit yourself into print. Yes, that is the title of a book by Renni Browne and Dave King. A book I might add, that I ordered in part out of curiosity and in part to see if I could truly put out a polished book without the aid of a professional editor. Final answer? A big whopping ‘Don’t Do It’! I’ll return to the book, but first let me go back…

I originally didn’t use an editor. I wondered at the expense and whether or not I would be getting enough of a return on sales to warrant shelling out a couple grand (give or take a lot) on an editor. I looked into a few, but I wasn’t just after skill - I needed a personality that worked well with mine. I was looking for a long-term and loyal editor-author relationship. Finally I found an editor, or better she found me through an interview I did. I had a desperate desire for an editor with whom I could work, and not want to strangle because they demolished my voice and everything real about my book. After she completed a sample edit for me and we conversed a few times via email, I knew this one was a keeper.

It turned out that I spent far more time attempting to self-edit, and my time is extremely valuable. I was a top-notch English student in high school and university. I aced the exams and wrote stellar papers. So no one was more surprised than me, when ten years later, that stellar English student was now only mediocre. It was then and there that I knew no author, no matter how adept at the written word, should be without an editor. It was a long hard lesson on a winding and confusing literary road to take, but I learned enough from the process to become a better writer.

Back to the book! Would I recommend reading it? Yes! Why you ask? It can help an author to improve their writing because grammar and spellcheck on your computer just won’t cut it. I especially like the chapter titled Sophistication where it mentions phrases used by hack writers (I’ve learned the error of my ways). I also enjoyed the section titled Once is Usually Enough. As a whole, the book is an easy read and one that any author could easily understand (or should understand).

So what’s my final take on self-editing? Do it! Wait, didn’t I just explain that an author shouldn’t do it? No! Authors should complete a self-edit to the best of their ability before it goes off to the professional editor.


1.     DO find an editor who is not only skilled (make sure they prove their ability), but they should also be someone with whom you can work easily. Keep it as stress-free as possible.
2.     DON’T rely on your own skills, no matter how many books you’ve read, for the final product. If you can’t afford an editor and you have no choice but to self-edit your first book or two, work with critique partners, read the editing books, work with reviewers and read and reread your manuscript until it’s the best you can possibly make it. But word to the wise—wait until you can hire a professional.
3.     DO give yourself enough time to finish the manuscript and have it off to the editor in order to meet your deadlines (learned this one the hard way). Remember that you need time for rewrites when it comes back with all the pretty red markups.
4.     DON’T shrug off the editor’s suggestions if those edits can make your book better. On the flip side, don’t just make the edited changes without reading everything through.
5.     DO have fun. What we authors do should be fun or it’s not worth it. 

Guest post by MK McClintock. MK McClintock was born on the west coast, but after less than eight years she left with her family to the Rocky Mountains. After more adventures around the country, business-college and culinary school, MK McClintock found a place to call home in Montana.

Over the years MK McClintock traveled the country and visited magnificent Scotland. She dreams of a time when life was simpler, the land rougher and the journey more rewarding. With her heart deeply rooted in the past and her mind always on adventure, MK McClintock still calls Montana home.

MK McClintock is also the author of Gallagher's Pride, the first of her Montana Gallagher Series and Alaina Claiborne, the first of her British Agent novels.

Book Information
Formats: Paperback and Kindle
Publisher: Trappers Peak Publishing
Release Date: August 1, 2012
Series: The Montana Gallaghers

Author Links
MK McClintock Website:

Twitter:!/MKMcClintockMT or @MKMcClintockMT

MK will be awarding an ebook copy of the first book of the series (Gallagher’s Pride) to one random commenter at every stop and a $25 Amazon GC to a randomly drawn commenter at the end of the tour.  She'll also award a $15 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn host from her tour." rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway

I encourage you to follow the tour and comment; the more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:


  1. The whole process is very interesting. Excellent advice.


    1. Marybelle--it is an interesting process! When I first edit a book I'm all smiles to see the changes. Then we get into the details of structure and my brain starts to hurt. Then comes the minute details of fixing punctuation and my brain really starts to hurt! At least the end result is worth it! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Thank you for hosting on this tour!

    1. You're very welcome. All the best with your book.

  3. I agree with your posting about the self editing and using a professional editor. There have been some eBooks that I've read with so many grammatical or editing errors, that it was rather annoying or threw me out of the story.

    strive4bst at yahoo dot com

  4. Thank you SO MUCH, MK, for the writing advice! I'm horrible at grammar-- HORRIBLE!-- so if I were ever to try my hand at getting my novel published, I know I wouldn't be able to rely simply on myself, or it would be a hot mess! ;-)
    Your tour has been amazing fun to follow! I wish you nothing but success!


  5. I think you may have given a lot of help to a lot of new writers. Thank you.

  6. Rebecca Hipworth10 August 2012 at 20:55

    Sounds very good.


  7. Thanks for being apart of the tour. Over the last few months I've seen the pros and cons to self publishing. I've learned that at times, it's difficult to take everything on your own shoulders.


    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  8. As a reader, librarian, and someone with a Master's degree in English, nothing turns me off from a book more than poor editing. When I have to stumble over typos, grammatical errors, internal inconsistencies, etc., I just have to stop reading. While this does happen occasionally in a traditionally published and edited book, it's much more likely to occur in self-edited and self-published books. SO, I second your points. At the very least, writers should invest in professional editing.

    catherinelee100 at gmail dot com

    1. I did learn this one the hard way thinking I knew it all when going into this, but after working with a professional editor, I know why they do what they do and authors do what we do!

  9. I love this post! I'm an editor and I can't agree more with your comment, "DON’T shrug off the editor’s suggestions if those edits can make your book better. On the flip side, don’t just make the edited changes without reading everything through." LOL. If I had dime for all those authors who just clicked "accept all" and sent them back. :) Anyway, good luck on your release. Love the cover. tchevrestt(at)yahoo(dot)com

    1. Thanks Tara! I remember thinking when I first started working with an editor that she really knew her stuff so all I would have to do is sit back and let her work her magic. Truth is, the book loses the author's voice if they simply accept everything. I found out that a month of edits is far more consuming than six months of writing, but it's definitely a necessary step.


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