7 Things You Should Have on Your Self-Editing Checklist

            For an author, self-editing can be difficult. Even if you are the type that is extra critical of your work, it can still be easy to miss things that another person can see because you are so close to your work. One way to avoid missing problems is using a checklist.

            I am nearly done self-editing my first novel. Editing my writing has taught me several lessons about what problems can sneak past even the most paranoid of editors. These lessons have made me more aware of my pitfalls and transformed my editing checklist. This week I’m sharing some of the items I’ve added. Here are seven things you should have on your self-editing checklist.

1. Names. Sometimes a character’s name will change. If this has happened, you should watch for any instances that haven’t been changed to the new name yet. You should also be careful of spellings. I’ve discovered that I was using multiple spellings for the same character’s name. You should also check names for places and things. If something has a real-life counterpart, check that you have gotten the name correct. This type of mistake is very noticeable to readers, which is why you need to make a big point of checking this over and over.

2. Timeline. You most likely worked out a timeline for your story before you started to write (unless you’re the type that prefers to wing it). That doesn’t mean you kept that timeline while you were writing. Whenever you come across a date or other reference to time, check it against other time-related facts to make sure it matches your timeline or the true events that you are writing about.

3. Italics. Italics is very useful for authors. It can represent a foreign language, emphasis, and many other types of indications. The tricky part is not overdoing it. If you use italics too often, it will lose its meaning. You should decide what you want italics to mean in your novel and make sure you uphold that standard throughout. Readers can easily adapt to whatever your italics mean if you are consistent in your usage. For instance, I’ve chosen to use it as emphasis a couple times in dialogue but mostly to represent the characters’ thoughts.

4. Capitalization. There are, of course, rules to follow concerning capitalization, but some things are a matter of style. In these cases, it is much like italics. You need to create a standard for yourself and make sure it is carried out throughout the novel. For example, I have chosen to capitalize “season” whenever I’m referring to a social season so that it stands out as different from calendar seasons. The capitalization gives extra meaning to the word and correcting that break from proper capitalization would have lost that meaning.

5. Don’t lose characters. Unless you’re writing sci-fi or fantasy, your characters should not be disappearing into thin air. As you edit, make a note of when a character comes in and check that all of those characters also have a point when they leave. Even minor characters that only briefly appear should have some kind of exit. You can’t just drop them. Your readers will most likely wonder about it and lose their focus on your actual point.

6. Details. One of the trickiest parts for both authors and editors are the details. I’ve already come across several pieces of furniture that magically changed colors. It is those types of things you need to watch out for. Keep notes of what things looked like, where things are, and other details so that you can check that they stay that way.

7. Word count. I don’t mean the word count of your novel. That you should have relatively under control. What I am talking about is the word count of each chapter. The average manuscript page is 250 words. Today, many readers are busy and have tight schedules. They can only dedicate so much time to reading. For the sake of your readers, keep a limit on the number of pages in a chapter. It might even help to break your chapters up into sections. I have been needing to adjust my chapters’ lengths because I was focused more on overall word count rather than chapter word count.  

           Self-editing can feel daunting. A checklist will help you ensure that the important details of your novel are accurate and cohesive. Keep editing and don’t be afraid to ask for help from others. A more objective set of eyes can help you see things that your readers might notice, but you wouldn’t give a second thought about. What items do you have on your checklist? Share them in the comments!

New Year, New Projects

We have nearly finished the first month of a new year, and I hope everyone is having a promising start to 2021. I am excited to say that I have several changes for Kali Tedrow Editing and a couple new projects to announce that are coming this year.

Changes in 2021

First, Kali Tedrow Editing has a couple of changes in place for 2021. You can now find me on MeWe, as well as LinkedIn and Twitter. I’ll be posting plenty of new content about writing and editing and updates on whatever projects I have in the works.

You can expect new blog posts about writing and editing as well. There will be fewer posts this year because more of my schedule is dedicated to actual editing. I believe that quality is more important than quantity, which is why I decided to change to monthly blog posts instead of weekly. If you have a topic you would like for me to write about, mention it in the comments! Also, don’t forget to subscribe to the blog so that you will know when a new post is published.

In other news, I do have openings for new editing projects in February and March. If you have a manuscript that you need edited or proofread soon, please contact me. I offer free sample edits and can give you a quote for your project. I’m open to many different types of projects, but I especially like to work with indie authors. If necessary, I am open to negotiating on price because I understand how hard it can be getting started.

Current Writing Project

Aside from my editing, I also have a couple of writing projects. I’m an editor at heart, but I’ve dabbled in writing since middle school. That hobby has, more recently, turned into a novel. I didn’t intend to publish my work when I started it, but I have changed my mind since then. It has taken a lot of editing to change a story written for fun to a manuscript worth publishing, but I am happy with the progress. The original plan was to self-publish the novel right before the holidays, but unforeseen circumstances prevented that. The new plan is to have the novel out sometime this spring. This novel is a Christian historical romance/mystery titled The Lady in Red. When I have a more exact date, I will let everyone know more about it.

New Writing Project

I also have a new writing project in the works for 2021. My first novel has been such an adventure, that I have decided to write a sequel. Now that I have characters and a setting already developed, I hope that this manuscript will be a little simpler to write. It will also help that I’m starting out with publication in mind. As of now, this next book consists of an outline and a couple drafted scenes. You will definitely be seeing updates about progress throughout the year.

New Year, Many Possibilities

This year is filled with many possibilities and projects. I hope that 2021 proves to be a better year for you and that you are as excited about it as I am. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog and find me on social media! And if you have a manuscript in need of editing or proofreading, send me a message. Here’s to a new year!

My Services: Manuscript Evaluation

            Recently, I have been sharing the types of editing services I offer to authors. In my last installment of this series, I will be sharing a slightly different service: manuscript evaluation. If you aren’t certain about what editing your manuscript needs, an evaluation might be your answer.

What Is It?

            A manuscript evaluation is like editing. The biggest difference is that an evaluation does not include actual corrections. Instead, a manuscript evaluation is about a big picture view of your manuscript and what it needs. Because of this difference, this method can be less expensive while still giving you guidance on how to improve your manuscript.

Who Is It For?

            A manuscript evaluation might be the answer for you if you have a completed manuscript, but don’t know how much editing it needs. You don’t want to pay for heavy editing if it is not needed, nor do you want to pay for copy editing when your manuscript truly needs developmental edits. The evaluation will help you know what type of editing will be the most beneficial to you.

 It is also good for those who want advice but can’t afford a full edit. If you are self-publishing and on a tight budget, the manuscript evaluation will help you get some objectivity as you edit, without using up your entire budget.

What Does It Look Like?

            My process for a manuscript evaluation differs from my editing processes. I begin critiquing the manuscript during my first reading. I make note of persistent problems I see with mechanics, first impressions of characters, and anything else I notice as I read. By the time I reach the end, I will usually have a series of queries along with my notes. My second pass through your manuscript is meant for finding the answers to my questions and confirming my initial thoughts.

            Once I am done working out all my questions and comments, I write them out into a letter. In this letter, I will explain to you my impressions of your manuscript. Then, I will tell you what your manuscript’s strengths and weaknesses are. From there, I will give you some advice on what you can do to make your manuscript even stronger. If you request it, I will include a light markup of the manuscript. It will be most similar to a light copy edit.


            Writing a book can be a daunting task and editing it may sound even more difficult. Editors want to help you navigate the process. If you would like some advice on the next steps for your novel and what it might still need before publication, a manuscript evaluation might be exactly what you need.

My Services: Proofreading

            Editing is a vital part of the publication process. There are many types of editing, and their definitions can vary depending on the editor. Over the last few weeks, I have been sharing the editing services that I offer and explaining my processes. Today, we’ll be discussing proofreading.

What Is It?

            Proofreading is your last line of defense before you publish your manuscript. It is for reviewing page proofs to find any stubborn typos that survived the editing process. It also looks at format and design to make sure that everything looks right and is easy to read. As the last editing step, proofreading is by far the most detailed.

Who Is It For?

            Because proofreading is the last check before publication, it is for authors who are ready to publish their work. There should be no need to alter the text or make significant changes to your manuscript. The way the manuscript looks when proofreading is done is the way it should look after publication.

What Is the Process?

            When proofreading, I start by looking at grammar, punctuation, and spelling to make sure there are no persisting typos. Afterward, I check that the manuscript has adhered to its style guide or house style. Because this is usually the last time the manuscript will be edited, I begin proofreading during my first reading. I don’t want to become overly familiar with the text.

            Once I am done with these checks, I turn my attention to more particular items. I check images, lists, headings, page numbers, and table of contents to make sure that nothing is missing and that all are formatted correctly. Bullet points should be parallel, headings should be formatted the same, and the design should not be pulling the reader’s attention away from the text. There are hundreds of small details that can have a big affect on your manuscript and, therefore, need to be perfect.

            My last check is for quotations and references. These are hot spots for trouble that deserve special attention, which is why I take special care to ensure accuracy and completeness. Proofreading doesn’t usually include fact-checking, but I do some if I believe it is needed. After I am done checking everything, I will read the proofs one last time to make sure that it looks good and to finalize all my edits.


            Proofreading is the point at which you can iron out the final details of your manuscript. How your manuscript will look once it is published is decided at this stage. I try to help you with making all your final changes by thoroughly checking your manuscript’s text, style, and design.

My Services: Copy Editing

            What type of editing you choose for your manuscript depends on who the editor is and what your editing goals are. I have been sharing what types of editing I offer, how I define them, and what my process looks like. So far, we have discussed developmental and line editing. This week, we will talk about what copy editing is and who can benefit from it.

What Is It?

            When most people picture editing, they are thinking about copy editing. Copy editing is about correcting grammar, spelling, and other typos. Not everyone realizes that copy editing goes beyond mechanics to include writing style. A copy editor checks that the author or publisher’s writing style is applied consistently throughout the manuscript. This editing process is all about reviewing the details.

Who Is It For?

            Copy editing comes toward the end of the publication process. At this point, you should have developed the manuscript’s structure and reworded the text. All the significant changes have already been made, and you are ready to polish your manuscript. Essentially, if you are ready to publish your book but want to make sure you have a clean manuscript, copy editing is what you need.

What Is the Process?

            I work from a checklist but adjust depending on what your manuscript needs. My first reading of your manuscript will usually tell me enough to know how I need to adapt. I then start with running spell check and editing software (with the client’s permission). From there, I will move on to checking grammar, punctuation, and spelling. After I have reviewed all of the language mechanics, I move on to style. Here, I look for such things as proper word usage, good sentence length, and consistency in applying style rules.

            My next step is to fact-check if the client wishes (although I spot check a manuscript if I see a red flag). I also check readability. Vague wording can hide problems with facts. After I finish working through my checklist, I will read the manuscript one last time. This is to ensure that I have caught everything and that my changes make sense.


            Copy editing is more focused on the details than other types of editing are. It is about providing you with clean copy that is ready for publication. The details of your manuscript are just as important as the big picture. Copy editing can polish those details so that they present your ideas well.

My Services: Developmental Editing

            Editing is so much more than correcting grammar and punctuation. It has a much broader focus. Every editor has their definition of what editing is. During these next few blog posts, I’ll be giving more detailed descriptions of the types of editing I offer. I will explain what each type of editing is, who it is ideal for, and what my process is. Today, we will take a closer look at developmental editing.

What Is It?

            Developmental editing is about strengthening a manuscript’s structure and content. The “bones” of the manuscript, such as plot, setting, flow, and tone, are all important in this editing process. Although I might suggest corrections for grammar and spelling, it is not my first priority during a developmental edit. This process is about giving your manuscript a solid foundation for presenting your ideas.

Who Is It for?

            Developmental editing is heavy-handed, which makes it ideal for rough drafts or unfinished projects that are in trouble. It is also helpful for authors who are starting out and still learning their craft. It can even be good for a few chapters to help the author gauge what developmental stage their manuscript is at.

What Is the Process?

            I have a checklist I follow with each edit. Before I edit anything, I always take the time to read it. I want to know what I’m getting into before I rearrange things. Afterward, I take care of housekeeping items such as spellcheck and removing extra spaces. I will usually customize my checklist to include any problems that caught my attention during the first reading.

            The first things I focus on are titles and headings. They need to be engaging enough to catch your reader’s attention while informing the reader about what is coming in the text. The next focus is the introduction and conclusion. Both paragraphs are usually strong because authors spend the most time perfecting them. I make sure that the paragraphs are engaging for readers, plainly state (or restate) the point, and fit together cohesively.

            Next, I look at the structure of the manuscript. I make sure that the ideas in the introduction are carried throughout the manuscript. They need to be expanded logically in the text. As I move through the manuscript, I look for plot holes, inconsistencies, poor descriptions, inaccuracies, and ill-timed pacing. I want the content to have value for both you and your reader. You should feel that your content is expressing your ideas clearly; and the reader should find your manuscript intriguing and easy to understand.

            My next concern is logic and flow. These aspects overlap with structure because they are related. I look for good transitions between paragraphs and logical flow through the manuscript. The text isn’t the only focus in this part. It is also important that extra content, such as charts or images, tie into the surrounding text and add value to the manuscript.

            I always take special care to look at dialogue. It needs to flow like a natural conversation and make sense to the reader. If the dialogue is forced, the reader won’t believe it and will be turned off from the story. Depending on your manuscript’s setting, the dialogue also needs to fit within the location and time. It is a critical part of building your manuscript’s world.

            My next concern is the tone and voice. The tone will let your manuscript make the right impression on your readers. I make sure that the tone is appropriate and stays consistent. For voice, I ensure that your manuscript has more active voice than passive so that it will exude confidence and authority.

            Finally, I will look at clarity and accuracy. I put these elements last because they are so important. These two are imperative for every type of writing, which makes it important for me to address any existing issues with them. Above all else, the reader needs to clearly understand the manuscript and trust that the information is accurate. With all my projects, I do one final read-through to make sure I haven’t introduced new errors into the manuscript while I was making significant changes.


            What you get from an editing process depends on who the editor is and what type of editing they are doing. I view developmental editing as a process that helps authors create a well-structured manuscript out of their rough drafts. Developmental editing looks at all the important elements of writing to ensure that they will support the content of your work and successfully share your ideas with your readers.

The Value of Distance in Editing

            You come across times when you need to self-edit your writing every day. It’s inevitable. Self-editing might not sound like anything to worry about, but it has hidden difficulties. The greatest obstacle is how easily you can miss a mistake because your brain knows your writing too well. There is a solution that can help you edit your work successfully. The answer is distance.

Why Distance Is Necessary

            You might be having a hard time imagining how distance can be valuable to you with your writing. As the author of your words, you know them better than anyone else. That knowledge is a natural outcome, but it can be detrimental to your editing. As an editor, you know your work too well, which can cause you to miss mistakes that another person might see. Distance from your writing makes it fresh to your mind again.

How to Create Distance

            There are a few ways you can create distance between you and your work. The first way is to put actual distance between you and the draft. Walk away from your writing for a time and focus on something else. The more time you can take away from your work, the better. I try to let a day go by without looking at my writing before I begin editing. When I do go back, I’m usually horrified by the number of mistakes in my draft. The distance helps me see what I couldn’t before. You don’t have to take a whole day away from your writing for the distance to benefit your editing. Any amount of time is helpful, but I would recommend at least taking thirty minutes away from your writing before you begin to edit it.

            Another way to create distance is by altering the original so that the writing appears new to your brain. Disguising your draft is possible by changing fonts, font size, color, and spacing. I use eleven-point Lucida Sans Unicode in black single-spaced when I write. When I edit, I change the type to fourteen-point Courier New in light blue double-spaced. The changes are enough to make the article look completely different. Printing your work out and editing it manually with proofreader marks is also an option. I have not tried editing physical copy, though, because I write too much to make that a cost-effective option.


            When self-editing your work, distance is your friend. Put time and space between you and your writing so that you can approach the editing process with a fresh perspective. You can also create distance by changing the appearance of the draft so that it looks like a new work. Self-editing might be a tricky process, but it doesn’t have to be impossible if you take preventative steps.