I’m editing today—juggling three different manuscripts. As both an editor and an author, I’m often asked if I do my own editing.

The answer is NOOOO. Having a fresh set of eyes on your piece is essential—even for those of us who already operate with excellent vision, grammar, and mechanical skills. Trust me when I say that those fresh eyes will find things you never thought about.

All that said, I do edit to the best of my ability before I ever send something to my editor.

Part of it is respect—both for my own sense of pride and her time. I want to pay that woman X amount of dollars to look at my work and say, ‘this is fantastic. It needs nothing.’ (Something that has never happened.)

Part of it is just my own anal retentiveness. I have a hard time letting go.

If that’s you, this is my process. Maybe it’ll be helpful for you, too.

I go through my scenes and make sure each one is vital to the story and moves it forward. Each scene should have these things, so I chart each to make sure I have everything. POV, scene goal [goal of POV character], motivation for scene goal [the why], conflict [to attaining goal], and disaster [the character should either not get what s/he wants, something worse should happen, or the character should attain goal, but have something go awry.]

Next, I look at my work at both the character level. For each main character, there should be an overarching GOAL, MOTIVATION, and CONFLICT. What does the character want? Why does s/he want it? And finally, what is standing in the way of them getting it? For added depth, they should have both an external and an internal goal. External goals are like…hurricanes. Bad people. A car accident. Internal conflicts are emotional ones. States of being.

After this I look at the story level—specifically plot points. This is to ensure I have an adequate arc going on. I first chart the inciting incident, where the very first domino is tapped that sends the protagonist scuttling toward a goal. The protagonist’s goal should be established here. Then I check for the following:

2. The hook. Is it strong? Does it make you want to keep reading?

3. The midpoint. The protagonist gets new information that reveals the path toward goal achievement.

4. The quiet before the storm…rising action. All pieces are in place.

5. The black moment. The worst possible thing happens to the character in terms of goal. It’s soul crushing.

6. Resolution. How does the character ultimately achieve goal? Or does he? How would failure achieve something redemptive?

Each of these plot points should tie back to the character’s overarching G-M-C.

After I’ve done this, I open up my trusty ProWriting Aid and go to town on grammar, fluidity, and  

style issues.

I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have questions or comments!