Self-publishing Handbook

Here’s a summary of what to watch out for when you edit your manuscript yourself. Next will be more information on how to find a professional editor.

Self-editing Step I: the bigger picture


  • Are your characters’ actions credible?
  • Do the characters’ actions move along the story?
  • Are your characters’ motivations clear?
  • Have the characters developed?
  • Is your cast of characters balanced in terms of gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation?


  • Does the pacing of the story work?
  • Have you cut superfluous scenes or storylines, which slow down the story?
  • Have you created suspense efficiently?
  • Are there any plot holes?
  • Is there tangible conflict?
  • Is the resolution understandable and not too rushed?
  • Have you resolved all subplots?
  • Is your narrative act successfully executed?
  • Have you used foreshadowing and other literary devices appropriately?

Other questions

  • What was your authorial intention when you started out and what is it now? Have you expressed it in an appropriate manner?
  • Have you brought out themes, motifs and symbols, which support your story?
  • Have you made use of any other literary devices? Could you enhance your story with more literary devices or distinguish those you already used even more?
  • Are you being continuous in everything, including, for example locations, character’s eye colour etc.?

Self-editing Step II: language

General narrative issues

  • Do you switch between showing and telling mode appropriately?
  • Are you true to the point of view from which you are writing?
  • Are beginnings, endings and transitions between scenes appropriate and clear?


  • Have you cut too long sentences into two?
  • Are your sentences clear?
  • Have you replaced weak verbs with stronger ones?
  • Have you replaced passive structures with active ones wherever possible?
  • Have you replaced cliché phrases and metaphors?
  • Have you cut all unnecessary adverbs and other superfluous words?

Self-editing Step III: proofread


  • Are your sentences clear?
  • Do your sentences make sense grammatically?
  • Are you using the correct tense at all times? (This can be especially tricky with flashbacks or when you give background information in general)


  • Does the vocabulary fit the voice of the character, the tone of the story, the formality of situation etc.?
  • Have you cut repetitive words or replaced them with synonyms?
  • Are you sure you haven’t misspelled similarly spelled or often confused words, such as it’s/its or there/their/they’re?


  • Have you made all the commas, periods and semicolons in the right places?