Writing Tips

Five Tips for Copy Editing Your Own Novel

After the first draft and the second draft and the twelfth draft of your novel, you need to take care of all of those spelling and comma errors. The only issue is that you have 80,000 words of grammar errors, and literary agents and readers really hate mistakes.

Copy editing is all about finding the tiny errors without changing the content of the novel. It is where you correct spelling and grammar errors along with making sure that your sentences are clear and concise. Typically, copy editing is done after all the other type of editing and rewrites so that you don’t have to keep coming back to check for small mistakes.

One of the best ways to fix all of the small errors is to find a grammatically-minded friend to check over your novel. A new set of eyes can be really helpful when you have been staring at the same novel until you could read it in your sleep. But sometimes you can’t find a friend with an unhealthy obsession with grammar, or maybe you keep finding errors that your beta readers have missed. So here are five tips for copy editing your own novel.

Five Tips for Editing Your Own Novel

  1. Change the font of your document or copy your document into a different program from the one that you normally use. Since you have probably been reading this novel every day or a year or more, it is very difficult to catch all of the small mistakes. Simply changing how your novel looks makes you actively read it rather than just scan the pages.
  2. Do one round of copy edits where you progress backwards through your novel (so you start at your last chapter and work backwards.) This forces you to look at every sentence on its own. Also I have found that I tend to have more mistakes at the end of my novels (probably because by the time I get to editing the last chapters, I am rushing and not paying as much attention), so this helps if you are like me and your later chapters are filled with mistakes.
  3. Don’t edit more than one chapter a day or at least take lots of breaks while copy editing. And no, Pinterest does not count as a break. 😉 For me, after I do a certain amount of copy editing, I get bored or tired and begin scanning instead of actively reading. So take lots of periodic breaks. Run outside, grab the mail, or get a snack. Just get moving and awake before you start again.
  4. Use a reading app to read your document out-loud to you. Online reading apps are terrible things; they actually read your mistakes aloud! Now, reading apps are not the best for catching comma errors, but I’ve heard they are helpful for most types of copy editing. Personally, I have not tried this method, and I could not find any reading apps when I did a quick Google search. So if you like this method of editing and know of good reading apps, please let me know in the comments!
  5. Print out your novel and correct it with a pen. For some reason, finding and correcting errors is much easier with a printed piece of paper. The downside to this method is that you are going to have to print 300 to 400 pages of text (and I would highly suggest double spacing your novel for printing so you have room to write comments.)

So what tips do you have for copy editing? Is anyone copy editing right now? Good luck with your writing and copy editing.

And yes, I know that it is hypocritical to write a post about copy editing when practically every one of my blog posts contain multiple spelling and grammar errors. I know lots of methods for copy editing– I just don’t use them on blog posts because I am lazy like that. 😉

God bless,


4 thoughts on “Five Tips for Copy Editing Your Own Novel”

  1. It’s funny. There are multiple copyediting errors in your sentence about how your posts have multiple copyediting errors.


      1. I noticed the emoticons are different. Did WordPress update the theme, or did you do something to change them?


  2. We had a rule in my company: nothing gets printed until three sets of eyes had read it over for mistakes such as spelling and grammar! Your five tips are sound basic helps and practical reminders of striving for excellence. I’m glad you printed them for us – thanks!
    MB in ABQ


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