Refreshing Manuscript Editing


If you talk to any bestselling author about editing, the first thing they will tell you is to put the manuscript away once you are done writing it. This can be incredibly hard for a new writer to do because they have just finished writing, usually for months on end, and they want to dive right into editing the book. Well, you need to listen to those best selling authors because putting the manuscript away for a while is one of the best things you can do.

When you have finished writing your novel, you need to make a backup of the book that you can store somewhere safe. Then, you need to put the manuscript away. How long the manuscript sits in a drawer away from you is up to you, but generally you want to have the manuscript out of sight and out of mind for at least 30 days.

Of course, during this waiting period, what are you supposed to do? Do you sit and twiddle your thumbs? While that may be fun for a while, you should get right back on the writing horse and do the following,

  • Take some time to celebrate finishing the novel. Go out for dinner, see a movie, have some fun, just don't think about writing for at least one night.
  • Work on an outline and notes for a new novel.
  • If you do not have any ideas for a new novel, then attend some writing workshops, or do some exercises to see what new ideas come into your head.

Why Wait?

One question new writers have is why should they wait to look at the manuscript and edit it. The answer to this lies in the fact that when you write something and edit it right away, you miss many things including spelling errors, grammar problems, plot inconsistencies, and more. Amazingly, these problems essentially become invisible to the writer. The writer knows how the book reads because they wrote it and their brain will simply fix any problems within the head itself to make the story make sense.

Once you put the manuscript away for a period of time, you can open it up again and you will be reading as if it were new. That new perspective allows you to see problems in the book, problems you may not have seen if you started editing right away.

Once the Waiting Is Over

Once those 30 days or more expire, you will be ready to go at editing your future masterpiece. You have a fresh perspective on your work and the first thing you should begin doing is making notes based on your perceptions of the book before you begin reading it. These are what you believe the book should read like, things that you thought about during the waiting period, and maybe even things you want to change. Some things you may realize when you begin to do an edit after the waiting period are as listed.

  1. The ending needs to be changed.
  2. The beginning has to be rewritten.
  3. A character needs to be removed or added.
  4. Scenes need to change.

Once you are done with the editing process again, then put the manuscript away for a week to clear your head. It is amazing how well this will work to help you create a great book of which you can be truly proud.

Common Writing Mistakes Which Editing Fixes

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Book Editing course?


In this section, we will go over the mistakes all writers, even the best, make. By knowing these mistakes, you can ensure your editing catches them so that the following are corrected.

  • Your and You're. This is incredibly common for new writers to do and all it takes is a second look to see the problem. Your is possessive, as in saying this is your book. When you write, "you're", you are saying, "You are" as in you are a writer.
  • It's and Its. This is also very common and you can avoid the mistake by thinking about what you are writing. When you write, "It's", you are saying it is or it has. When you write, "its", you are using a possessive pronoun, as in, "My writing has lost its luster."
  • There and Their. Another common one that can be a simple mistake fixed by reading through your manuscript. "There" means that you are referring to something or referencing something, as in, "There is hope that I will get published with that publisher there." When you say, "their", you are referring to someone or a group.

In addition to mixing up words, writers will sometimes use the wrong words in place of what they are saying. Common errors that can be fixed with editing include the following.

  • Writers will use the word advise instead of the word advice. Advise means to recommend something, while advice is a noun that means guidance. If you say, "I have some advice for you," then use the noun advice.
  • Alludes is also very common in writing and it means an indirect reference. However, it is better to use, "to elude," which means that the understanding of something has escaped a character.
  • Probably one of the most common, if not the most common, error that a writer makes is to write, "alot." It is in fact two words, as in a lot.
  • One letter can completely change the meaning of a word in your book. If you say complementary, you are making something complete to bring it closer to being perfect. If you say complimentary, then you are giving away something for free. That means writing, "We will be giving you a complementary breakfast as part of your stay here," is incorrect because you have the wrong word in there, use complimentary instead.
  • Using the word formally instead of formerly is another common error. When you say formally, you are referring to something in a formal way, while formerly means something of an earlier period of time.
  • Saying that you infer something means you are deducing, but to imply means you are suggesting. Writers will commonly mix these two up.
  • If something is elusive, it is avoiding capture and perception; while illusive means that it is illusionary. Again, these are two words that writers will often mix up.
  • In your writing, you may say principle, which is a basic truth or rule, but mean to say principal, which means most important. Watch for this error when you are editing. Of course, a principal is also the chief or head of a school.
  • Another very common error is to say then instead of than. Then means you are referring to a specific time, while than is a comparison of two nouns.
  • Saying "whose" does not mean the same thing as who's. Whose is a possessive pronoun, while who's is the contraction of who is. Whose is used in, "Whose car is this?" While who's is used in, "Who's the boss here?"

Beyond spelling and grammar, some appearance errors that are made by writers, which can be fixed by editing include,

  • Single quotes should be used inside of double quotes, not the other way around.
  • Commas and periods should be inside of quotation marks where applicable.
  • Dashes and hyphens should have no space before or after.
  • You should not bold text within the manuscript, nor should you underline it. If you need to emphasize something, then use italics.

Most of this section has concerned grammatical and spelling errors, or incorrect use of symbols, but mistakes happen in the story itself, which can be fixed through editing. These mistakes include some of the following.

  • If you do not hook the interest of a reader immediately, in the first chapter, you will need to edit to make the story more interesting for your reader. One way that writers make this mistake is by waiting too long to bring up the premise of the novel.
  • Characters need to have believable motivations and relationships for the reader to be interested in them. Events within the story must help the plot evolve to create the believable characters that act the way they should. If you have a priest killing people, no one is going to believe the character (unless the priest is deranged of course).
  • Dialogue can seem forced if not done right. A good editing technique here is to read it out loud or say it into a tape recorder so you can play it back to yourself.
  • If the story does not have good energy, pace, or interest, it will have a poor plot and no one wants to read a book that has a poor plot.
  • If you change the location or the time on a reader, make sure that you make the reader aware of this. If you do not, the reader may become confused and a confused reader is a reader who does not want to finish the book.
  • Not describing a character can make it hard for the reader to visualize the character in their mind's eye.
  • If a publisher sees a cliché in the manuscript, they will be less likely to publish it, make sure to edit those out.

Find-and-Replace as an Editing Tool


When most writers think of a tool that their word processor gives them as a way to edit a manuscript, the one and only thing that they think of is the spell check. Well, the truth is that there is a second great tool that is often overlooked by new writers for editing. It is the find-and-replace function in your word processor and it can make your editing much easier.

How Does Find-and-Replace Help?

The find-and-replace tool that is provided in your word processor gives you the ability to look for problem phrases and words quickly. This saves you having to search through your manuscript manually. When you look manually, you will miss plenty of words that should be removed to make your book tighter and better.

Thankfully, the find-and-replace tool is extremely easy to use. To use it, if you have not previously used it, do the following,

  1. Put your cursor at the beginning of your manuscript, this will ensure that the find-and-replace starts from the beginning rather than wherever you are in the book currently.
  2. Click on Edit and select Find.
  3. In the Find-and-Replace window, select the Replace tab.
  4. Type in a word or phrase into the box that is labeled as "find what".
  5. Type in a word or phrase that you want to replace the word with (in the "replace" box of course.
  6. Select Find Next or Replace to manually go through each entry. If you want to go through all the entries at once, you will select "Replace All.".

For your manuscript, you will not be searching for a word and replacing it with another word, but you will be searching and flagging problem words and phrases that new writers usually put in their manuscripts. You do this by setting it so that when a word is found that matches what you typed in, the word is replaced with a colored or highlighted version of that word. Then, when you go through the manuscript fixing it, these highlighted or changed color parts will immediately become visible to you. Even if you print out the manuscript, you will notice these words if you set it to bold the words or highlight them.

Now, what words and phrases should you be searching for?

Problem Words and Phrases to Find

  • Very. Many writers will use the word very to magnify a verb, noun, or an adverb but it has been so overused that many editors and publishers see it as lazy writing.
  • Not. It is a common word meaning to no degree, but again there are better words to use than not.
  • Almost or Nearly. These words should be used sparingly and only in fiction when a precise measurement of something is unrealistic.
  • Finally. When you use this to describe a series of events and to end that series, it usually is seen as laziness more than anything.
  • Then or Next. These are weak transitions and you should not use then with next when referring to a list, location, or time.
  • Amazing or Wonderful. These words are used too much in romance novels to describe how special an individual is.
  • Small or Big; Short or Tall. Readers want to have accurate descriptions of a character. Saying they are tall or short is not accurate because what are they tall or short in relation to? Everyone is short in relation to a 7-foot tall basketball player, but everyone is tall in relation to a little person.
  • And also. This is redundant since also is in addition to, so is and.
  • As to whether. You do not need to have "as to" in front of whether because whether will do on its own.
  • Totally or Basically or Essentially. These words are not useful and do not add anything to a sentence. If you remove them you will see the sentence reads much better.
  • Being as. These words are used instead of because but because is a better word to use in your writing, use it.
  • Due to the fact that. Due to is a linking verb and should only be used as a linking verb. Instead of using due to the fact, use because.
  • Considered to be. Take out "to be" because considered can work on its own; although it is best to just change the phrase to something else.
  • Each and every. Every means everything being referred to and each means the individuals.
  • Got. This is an ugly word and it should be avoided at all costs unless it fits into the speech pattern of a character.
  • Had ought. This is a word combination that is used too much and you can easily eliminate had to just keep ought.
  • Interesting. In describing something in your book, you may choose to use the word interesting. Unfortunately, interesting is a word that glosses over a better description. Again, search for this word and flag it so that you can remove it.
  • Irregardless. This is not a word, despite what many writers will think. Do not use irregardless because it looks like poor writing. Even spell check knows it is not a word.
  • Kind of. Just like sort of, this word sequence is better replaced with rather or slightly.
  • Lots. When you are writing fiction, you should only use lots or lots of, when someone is talking in that manner. If you want to describe a lot of something, then use the words a lot of.
  • Just. A big crutch word for many writers is just. Just is not a great word unless you really need to use it.
  • Of. In some cases, using the word of is okay but in other cases, where you are using the words would of, should of, could of, you can instead use have to replace of.
  • Only. This word is usually used incorrectly in its placement. When you write a sentence, "He only could throw the stick 20 feet," you should instead say, "He could throw the stick only 20 feet."
  • Plus. Unless the character is using the word as part of their unique speech pattern, you should use the word and, instead.
  • Previous. Instead of saying previous, you should say earlier, especially when you are referring to a point in time.
  • Plus. Instead of saying plus, use and. Plus is not a good conjunction and should be avoided.
  • Suppose to. If you want to say that someone is supposed to do something, then make sure you put that extra 'd' in. Many writers will forget that d and a simple find-and-replace will find it and fix it for you.
  • Thru. Unless you are saying drive-thru, you should not use this word. If you have a character going through something, use the word through, not thru.
  • 'Til. Do not use this replacement of until or till. Use those words instead for more accurate writing.
  • Try and. You cannot try and do something. As Yoda once said, do or do not, there is no try. Write try, or write do.
  • The reason why is because. This is a horrible way to say, "The reason why" or "Because". You are just repeating yourself when you write it in the wrong manner.

Words Writers Overuse

Find-and-replace is also very handy when you want to find words that are used far too often by writers. See how many times in a chapter you use these words and then work to remove them.

  • -ly. Justly, simply and other words that end in -ly are not good words to put in your writing. Find better words and do a find-and-replace for -ly so you can see the problem words and replace them with something better.
  • Really. To exemplify something, writers will usually put in the word "really."
  • Nice or Bad. Good can also be included with these words that are used too often by writers.
  • This. To refer to something, writers will use this far too much. Find better words or use more descriptive words.
  • Kind of. This is a very annoying and lazy word from the viewpoint of publishers. It is also an understatement and a word you should avoid in place of much better words.
  • There. This word is used far too much and it is a sign of weak writing. There are better ways to write without using this word. For example, instead of saying, "There was no one on the beach," change it to, "No one was on the beach."
  • If. A common word in writing, it is used to describe options and the thought process extensively by writers. It is another form of lazy writing. Instead of writing "If he went to the hockey game, he may see a fight," you could write, "Going to the hockey game could mean seeing a fight."
  • When. Another word used far too much to signify when an action is occurring at the same time. Since the reader knows when something is happening at the same time, there is no reason to write the word, when.
  • As. When actions are being timed, as is used and it is used way too much. An example of this is, "He was running down the road as I followed him." You could fix this by saying "I followed him down the road while he ran ahead of me."
  • So. This word is overused and overused incorrectly. So is a conjunction, but it will often find its way to the start of a sentence. Conjunctions cannot start sentences, except in dialogue, because they join sentences together. Instead of using so, use two sentences.
  • Because. Like so, it is overused and overused incorrectly. It is a conjunction and that means that you do not start a sentence with it. Instead of using because, use and.

If you are wondering about how many times you use words in a specific piece of text, like a chapter, go to This great website allows you to paste text into a box. This website then tells you how many times you use each word. It is a great resource for knowing what words you use the most.