Self Editing Checklist

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  • Take a break - take a few days off after finishing your book and return with fresh eyes.
  • Clean up your text - use find and replace to remove unwanted spaces and regulate your speech marks.

  • Complete a spell check - at a minimum your word processor will have a spellchecker, but there are plenty of add ins that can perform a more omprehensive check for you.

  • Read your book aloud (either you, your computer or a friend). Get a feel for how it would sound to a reader and notice any glaring errors alog the way.

Next up, it’s the developmental edit. Look at the ‘big picture’ of your manuscript…


  • Does the plot have a clear structure (beginning, middle and end is most common but if you play around with the timeline check you stay true to the chronology of the action)?

  • Is the plot believable?

  • Are all loose ends (including subplots) tied up?

  • Can you follow the plot? Or is it too complicated with too many subplots?

  • Are there any plot holes?

  • Does the plot have a consistent theme? Is this theme evident throughout?

  • Is there a clear central conflict? Does it develop throughout the book and reach a logical conclusion?



  • Do you have a main character (protagonist)?

  • Do they have a motivation and move forward in the story?

  • Is the character sufficiently developed and described?

Supporting Characters:

  • Do you have an appropriate-sized cast of supporting characters?

  • Do they all need to be there?

  • Are they suitably developed and distinguishable?


  • Do you have an antagonist?

  • Do they have some form of conflict with your protagonist?


  • Do your characters have flaws? Are they human enough?

  • Are characters believable and developed?

  • Are characters adequately described?

  • Do your characters have mannerisms, distinguishing features and personality traits?


  • Have you established an appropriate world for your book to be set in?

  • Is this world effective? Are there any obvious flaws to this world? Is it logical and realistic?

  • Is there a sense of a timeline?

  • Have you adequately described your setting? Have you taken time to develop important places within your story?

  • Is your setting in keeping with the time and place your story is set in?

Other ‘Big Picture’ Considerations

  • Is your opening scene effective in grabbing the reader’s attention?

  • Is your dialogue believable and realistic? Do your characters have distinct voices, and do they stay true to their voices? Is the dialogue appropriate for the period of time the story is set in and the character’s personalities?

  • Is there a consistent narrative voice? Is this narrator appropriate for the story? Do they stay true to their character as a narrator or do they go beyond their own knowledge of the story?

  • Is there a consistent point of view for each scene?

Once you’ve made it through your developmental edit and completed any reworking, it’s time to tackle the copy edit. Look out for the following…

  • Spelling, punctuation, grammar and typos

  • Consistency - spelling of the character’s names, US or UK English spellings, the serial comma, the style of quotation marks you use, hyphenation.

  • Remove unnecessary words - overcomplicated writing is difficult to read. Keep your sentences simple and take out any words that don’t add meaning.

  • Avoid elaborate words - your reader won’t want a dictionary to decode your meaning.

  • Remove any vague words that don’t add meaning - really, some, might, a little.

  • Remove any clichés.

  • Check formatting of your dialogue - ‘I am going,’ said John not ‘I am going.’ Said John.

  • Stick to ‘said’ and ‘asked’ in your dialogue. If you’ve used more descriptive words (shouted, huffed, grunted etc.) do they need to be there, or has the dialogue already said it?

  • Look out for favourite words. Is there a particular word or phrase you like to use a lot? Try to avoid repeating it.

  • Try to keep your writing active - Try He hit John not John was hit.

  • Is your tense consistent? Make sure you remain in the same tense throughout the book (unless your book includes a dramatic temporal shift).

  • Remove unnecessary capitalisations, bold and italics.

Once you’ve worked through this checklist, you should find your book in pretty good shape for the next step, whether that be looking for a traditional publisher or the self-publishing route.