4 Common Self-Editing Misconceptions

I’ve made it my mission to show as many writers as possible how to turn self-editing into a fun, satisfying, rewarding experience.

So today, I’m debunking four common misconceptions about self-editing.

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by Elzevera Koenderink

4 common self-editing misconceptions blog post for writers

#1 – After self-editing, my manuscript needs to be perfect.

First of all, there’s no such thing as perfection when it comes to writing. We may believe someone else’s writing is perfect, but I can guarantee that the author himself won’t think of it that way.

So, if it’s not about making your writing perfect, why the heck self-edit?

Just because perfection may be out of reach doesn’t mean you can’t make your manuscript the best it can be.

Not making something perfect is not the same as delivering bad quality.

In fact, I’m 100% confident that you can deliver amazing quality if you put your mind to it. All it takes is a systematic approach, patience (especially with yourself) and time.

You are more than capable of lifting the quality of your writing to the next level through self-editing.

In fact, no one is better equipped to do so than yourself. You are the writer, after all.

So, forget about self-editing to perfection, and instead focus on transforming your first draft into a quality manuscript to be proud of.

“You are more than capable of lifting the quality of your writing to the next level through self-editing.”

#2 –  Self-editing is difficult.

As a professional editor with a master’s degree in editing, I won’t argue that editing is no easy feat. Quality professional editing is rare and takes a combination of skill and training as well as the ability to communicate properly.

However, none of these things is necessary when it comes to self-editing.

You only need one thing to qualify for self-editing, and that’s to be a writer.

Let me state that again: If you are a writer, you are qualified to self-edit.

The reason you don’t need any other skills or qualifications is that self-editing and professional editing aim for different goals.

Professional editing is meant to lift your writing to a level you wouldn’t have been able to lift it to. In order for that to happen, your editor needs to know what they’re doing.

Self-editing, on the other hand, is only meant to make your manuscript the best you can make it with the tools you have.

What that means will be different for every writer.

All you have to worry about is going through the motions and making sure you use tools and ask for help when you need it.

Are you lousy at grammar? No problem! That’s what editing tools like Grammarly and ProWritingAid are for.

Having trouble fixing a plot hole? Don’t fret! That’s what beta readers and (free) writing communities are for.

The most difficult part about self-editing is knowing which steps to take in which order. And you don’t have to figure that out yourself, because I did it for you!

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#3 – If I self-edit, I don’t need a professional editor.

Self-editing and professional editing are separate stops on the same journey.

When writing a book, the first stop is the first draft.

Second comes self-editing.

Third comes professional editing.

This is true if you self-publish, but also if you publish the traditional way through an agent or a publisher.

If you get a book deal, the publisher will provide professional editing. This is not optional, it will happen.

If you self-publish, you’ll have to hire a professional editor yourself.

The reason this is so important is that you won’t fulfil the full potential of your book is you skip either step. Self-editing and professional editing complement each other and strengthen each other.

If you don’t self-edit, the results you get from a professional edit won’t be nearly as good as if you do self-edit.

And if you don’t get your manuscript professionally edited, your writing may glimmer, but it won’t shine.

Compare it to a grade in school.

We’ll give your first draft a C-. It’s passable, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

If you don’t self-edit and go straight to a professional, they’ll be able to turn it into a B–maybe a B+ if the editor is really good–but no more.

The reason they won’t be able to get to an A is that you carry all the essential information.

An editor can make suggestions, but in the end, you’re the one who makes the decisions. So the more you know your characters and your story, and the more confident you are about your writing voice, the more an editor will be able to help you.

If you self-edit without going to a professional, you may also be able to get to a B, but without the insight a professional can offer, you won’t be able to get to that next level either.

The magic happens when you combine the two: When you hand in a manuscript that’s worth a B, a good editor will be able to help you turn it into an A.

#4 – Self-editing isn’t meant to be fun.

You may think I’m biased on this one because, well, I am an editor, so it’s only natural that I enjoy editing.

While it may be true that I enjoy (self-)editing more than the average writer, that doesn’t mean it has to be a traumatic, dreary experience for anyone else.

When you think about self-editing, you may think of reading the same scenes over and over and over again.

You may think of spelling and grammar, things you don’t enjoy but feel are necessary.

Or you may already feel the knot in your stomach at the thought of missing something important.

Let me reassure you: self-editing can be fun if you allow it to be.

Spelling and grammar are only a very small part of the self-editing process, and there are plenty of tools to help you in that area.

And as long as you approach the process systematically, there’s very little chance that you’ll miss something important. And if you do, you can be sure your beta readers will notice, providing you with the opportunity to rectify the situation.

Once you decide to approach self-editing with a positive attitude, your experience will change.

Instead of viewing self-editing as a necessary evil designed to make you miserable, look at it as an opportunity to do more of what you love about writing.

Spending time with your characters.


Create a strong, awesome plot.

Develop an individual writing style.

All of these things are a huge part of self-editing. So go on, have fun with it!

Did you find this post helpful? Leave a comment below and share your biggest takeaway.

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