The Three Stages of Editing (and Nine Handy Do-it-Yourself Tips)

Note: This post was originally published in 2014, and was updated in March 2018.

Whether you love editing or hate it, if you’re a writer, there’s no way to avoid it.

You may well have support – from beta readers, your spouse, your writers’ circle, or a professional editor – but a fair amount of editing needs to be done alone.

I find that “editing” encompasses three distinct stages. If you’re writing a blog post, each of these might take minutes; for a novel, they might take months … but however long or short your work, they’re all important.

The three stages are:

  1. Rewriting – adding and cutting whole chunks (scenes, chapters, paragraphs), and moving and reworking material.
  2. Editing – this is what I think of as “true” editing: reworking individual paragraphs and sentences, adding or cutting smaller sections.
  3. Proofreading – checking that what you think you wrote is what you actually wrote, and fixing typos and spelling mistakes.

Each stage requires a different approach, and here’s how I suggest you tackle them.

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Four Dangerous Pieces of Advice for Writers (And What to Do Instead)

Any writing-related advice that says you should always or never do something can generally be taken with a very large pinch of salt!

I’m sure you’ve heard lots of poor writing advice over the months, years or even decades that you’ve been writing. Here are some that I come across quite frequently – from often well-intentioned people.

Several of these might work for some people in some circumstances. Some are best ignored altogether!

Today, I want to look at some advice that almost all writers will hear at some point, whether it’s from an interested friend, a fellow writing group member, or a self-styled guru…

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Three Different Ways to Approach Blogging as a Novelist [With Examples]

If you’re a novelist, should you have a blog?

Opinions differ! You might have been told that you should blog, because you need to build a platform, or because it’s a good way to get people onto your site and then onto your mailing list, or because publishers / readers / the media will want it … or for almost any number of reasons.

My take on it is this: You don’t need to blog. It might well be helpful to have a blog, but it might also end up taking time that could be better spent on other novel-marketing activities.

If you do decide to blog, there are a few different ways in which you might approach it. Here are three quite different examples from three different authors:

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Could Firmer Boundaries Help You Dramatically Increase How Much You Write?

Back when I was a student, I had long vacations. Sometimes, I’d attend my previous writing group, back in my home town, where members would bring about 1,000 words of their work-in-progress to read each Monday evening.

Guess how many words I wrote each week?

About 1,000. It took me the whole of a Monday, sometimes, in fits and starts.

These days, with two kids and housework (on top of freelancing commitments), I can easily hit 1,000 words in an hour.

What’s the difference? Stronger boundaries.

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Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel

Congratulations! You’ve published your first novel (or maybe your second or your third) and now you’re ready to market it.

This can be a daunting moment. I think all of us secretly hope that our novel will be miraculously discovered and recognised as the masterpiece it truly is … but we know that isn’t going to happen without some sort of marketing.

The good news – especially if the very idea of marketing makes you shudder – is that there’s no single “right” way to let the world know about your book.  There are lots of different techniques you might try, depending on the type of book you’ve written, and the type of author you are.

I’m focusing on self-published novelists in this post. Many of these suggestions will work just fine for traditionally published authors too, but as a self-publisher, you have full control over things like the price of your book – and carte blanche to market in any way you see fit.

I’ve also kept this list short: seven ideas rather than the 50+ you might find on some sites.  I’ve come across some huge lists of marketing ideas for novelists … but often I end up feeling that most of the ideas aren’t necessarily all that workable or impactful.

While there are an almost unlimited number of things you could do to promote your novel, in this post, I’m going to focus on seven very common ones:

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Your Website is Always a Work in Progress

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of authors, bloggers and freelancers launch their websites.

They rarely start out with a massively, gorgeous site. They normally begin with something simple but workable: perhaps it’s a free blog on, for instance, or a single page on

The wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) thing about websites is that they’re always a work in progress.

You never truly “finish” a website. Even if you don’t have a blog or “news” section that needs new material on a regular basis, you’ll still want to make updates.

You’ll publish a new book. You’ll start – or stop – offering a particular service. You’ll change direction (perhaps quite radically). And your website will need to evolve with you.

Whatever stage you’re at with your own website, this is good news! You don’t need to get it “perfect” from day one.

But … you also don’t want to become so used to your current website that you never change a thing.

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When Can You Call Yourself a “Writer”?

This is a question that comes up a lot for newer writers.

When can I call myself a “writer”?

Well, there’s no rule about it. Being a writer isn’t like being a doctor or a lawyer – you don’t need any special qualifications.

That can be very helpful, but it can also be tricky. When exactly do you turn from a not-writer into a writer?

Some transitions in life are stark. When my daughter was born, I became – instantly and irrevocably – a mother. (She was born the day before Mothering Sunday, which was a lovely moment to enter motherhood.)

When I was a nervous 18 year old starting at university, I became – for the next three years – an undergraduate student.

But the state of being a writer can feel like a bit of a quantum state. You don’t suddenly “become” a writer; equally, it’s not clear what might stop you from being a writer.

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Three Ridiculous Moans from New Writers … and How I’d Respond

Most writers are reasonably pragmatic about the realities of writing. While they might daydream (secretly or not-so-secretly) about their talent being “discovered” by someone prominent in the writing industry … they know that’s not really going to happen.

Occasionally, though, I come across fairly new writers whose expectations are so far removed from reality that they’re genuinely unreasonable. I’ve seen these views expressed on blogs, on social media, and letters to magazines.

Three moans that I’ve seen come up again and again relate to:

  • Agents and unsolicited manuscripts
  • Friends and family
  • Professional writers

Here they are … and here’s why I think they’re (at least somewhat) ridiculous.

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2017 Roundup: Did You Miss Any of These Aliventures Posts?

I’m going to be taking some time off over the Christmas and New Year period – so I won’t be blogging again until mid-January.

In the meantime, if you want a bit of holiday reading, here are some posts from 2017 you might like to catch up with … or re-read. (And if this isn’t enough for you, don’t forget that you can find all past posts here in the Archive.)

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