7 Steps to Editing Your First Draft

Author Solutions – May 11, 2018

7 Steps

to Editing Your First Draft

At last! You’ve finished the first draft of your next self-published book. Hard work, wasn’t it? Well, don’t let all that hard work go to waste by rushing your manuscript off to be printed. Take a breath and remember this is only your first draft.

Many of the world’s most successful authors will craft numerous drafts before they are completely satisfied that their story is ready for their readers. The next step is book editing. You can do it yourself, ask a friend or family member (as long as you are sure they can remain objective), or submit your manuscript to professionals like AuthorHouse.

Whichever path you take, you want to make sure your manuscript is as near as you can make it to your finished book. Here are the first three (of seven) book editing steps we recommend you take once you have completed the first draft of your book.


a. Consult technology. Put your manuscript through your computer’s spelling and grammar checks. Remember, this is not the final step; it is only the beginning!

b. Consult the author. Machines have not completely replaced humans yet. Your computer’s spelling and grammar checks will not appreciate every nuance of your story and will not pick up every fault. You, the author, know what you want to come across in your writing, so you need to read it again yourself, in detail.

c. Check for the “was-ing” verb form. Readers want their action in the NOW. Use active voice wherever appropriate to strengthen your writing.

d. Halt homonyms. Make sure to choose the appropriate word for every circumstance. Make a note of recurring errors in your writing for future reference. Common examples include heterographs, such as to/too/two and there/their/they’re.

e. Maintain tense consistency. Make sure your entire book is written in the tense you have chosen. Pay particular attention to dialogue, where it is easy to become discombobulated.


a. Express your own voice. As Pulitzer Prize–nominated AuthorHouse-published author Richard Hébert advises us, make your writing voice your own. Editing a book can help you rediscover and hone your writing voice.

b. Find your rhythm. Read your book aloud. Your words should have a natural flow to them, giving your story an almost-musical rhythm. If you stumble over words, there is a problem with the flow. Do not edit straight away. Mark the spot where you struggled and continue reading. Once you have gone through your book chapter by chapter, you can return to the problematic sections and rework them.


a. The professional approach. Here’s where you distance yourself from your work and whip it into shape. Format your book as you would like to see it published (look for a book already published in a similar genre to use as your guide). Name your manuscript document “Final Edit,” then make sure its spacing, size, and margins are to trade paperback standards. Once you have done this, print it out to get an idea of the look of your future book.

b. The spatial approach. Think ratios… but don’t worry! There are no numbers involved here. This is all visual and involves the amount of blank page (known as white space) compared to the amount of black text on the page. If your pages are too white, there is not enough going on to engage your readers. If your page is too black, your story is text heavy and needs to be broken up to stop your readers from switching off.

STEP 4: SPOT CHECK (The random approach)

Now that your book is looking perfect, it’s time to mix things up a bit.Switch the order of your chapters around and then edit a randomly selected chapter at a time. This will help you look at each chapter independently and more subjectively to spot any errors you might have previously missed.


a. Jury selection and prosecution.Now it’s time to be completely objective and put your manuscript in the hands of others. Select a group comprising people you respect and trust. Half should be able to edit your book in a manner detached from emotion. The other half of the group should represent your book’s potential readership.

b. The judge’s final verdict. You are the judge. Self-publishing gives you, the author, absolute authority over what changes are made to your book. Listen to the suggestions from your chosen group and decide whether or not their suggestions merit an edit to your manuscript.


Consult technology one last time. Once you have made all the necessary changes and are happy with your book’s voice, appearance, and every other detail, run through steps one to three again just to make sure.


Contact a Publishing Consultant. Select a book publishing package and submit your manuscript for self-publishing. All of Author Solutions’ imprints offer professional book editing services to help you with any, or all, of the steps outlined above.