Updated: Mar 17, 2019
1. Rest the manuscript
Upon finishing typing your masterpiece's last word, set it aside for a couple of days. Put it aside for a week or more if you can stand it. Stephen King reports in On Writing that he places his finished drafts in a drawer for at least six weeks before looking back at them.
Why do you rest so long on your draft? You want to try to forget all you've written so that when you come back to self - editing, the book almost looks like someone else's writing it. You want fresh eyes, and the best way to do that is to get rid of what has filled it for so long.
2. Listen to the manuscript
It makes mistakes glaringly obvious to hear your words spoken. You can enlist a friend (very patient) to read it to you, or you can go the friendship - saving route that has the advantage of being free: use the built - in speech synthesis function of your computer.
If you’re a Mac user, click the Apple logo at the top left of your screen, select System Preferences, click Accessibility, then click Speech. Choose a System Voice and Speaking Rate you can tolerate, then select “Speak selected text when the key is pressed.” If you want to change the keyboard combination, click “Change Key” and follow the directions. I prefer Option+Esc.
Once you’ve enabled your preferred shortcut key, simply highlight any text (within any program) that you want to hear read aloud. Then hit your shortcut keys and follow your words on-screen as your computer reads them aloud.
Use Narrator, part of the Ease of Access Center system, for PC users. Press "Windows+U" and click "Start Narrator." As the program is intended for blind users, your mouse encounters will be read automatically. Hit "Control" to turn this off. To have a paragraph read by Narrator, place your cursor at the beginning and type "Caps Lock + I." To have Narrator read an entire page, press “Caps Lock + U.”
3. Look for troublesome words
All writers have specific words and phrases that always lead them to second - guess whether they're correctly using them. Use the search function of your word processor to locate every possible variant of that word or phrase if you know what your troubling words are.
This is a good starting list, extracted from the first chapter of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing, to help you consider what your troubling words might be:
a lot/alot their/they’re/there
If you're not sure how to use these words properly, there's no shame to look at them. Grammar Girl will probably have the answer, or check the Write Life post for invaluable tips on 25 Editing tips to tighten your copy.
4. Remove or replace crutch words
Do you know the top 10 words in your manuscript that you most frequently use? You may be surprised, apart from the necessary articles and prepositions, what words you tend to use over and over again.