12 Self-Editing Tips #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

This month’s #AuthorToolboxBlogHop centers on self-editing tips.

I’m fresh off a bout of editing/beta reading, and, boy, are my arms tired.

No, really, the book was a hot mess, and I’m afraid there’s an author sniveling somewhere and either plotting my mortal demise or vowing to never write again. I was merciless.

Here are 12 self-editing tips you can use when your first draft is done. Remember, brevity is your friend.

Self-editing tip #1

Redundant words: Cut out stage directions when the character’s actions are obvious:

Sarah stood up.  (Is Sarah going to stand down?) Change it to : Sarah stood.

Mike sat down on the chair. Change it to : Mike sat on the chair.

Self-Editing tip #2

Speaking of stage directions, the reader doesn’t need a blow-by-blow description of mundane tasks.

Bad:      Sarah walked to the cupboard and took out the oatmeal container. She poured some in a bowl and added water. She stirred the mixture then put it in the microwave. Sarah pushed the button for one minute then stepped back to wait.

Good:      Sarah made oatmeal.

Self-Editing tip #3

Cut out words when it’s obvious what is happening.

He held the talisman in his hand. (Where else would he hold it?)

Bad: Eric shielded Jane’s body.

Better: Eric shielded Jane.

Bad: Bill and Mike glared at each other in a face off.

Better: Bill and Mike glared at each other. (glaring at each other implies a face off)

Self-Editing tip #4

The use of crutch words. Don’t remove the reader from the story by making them aware that the character is a character. Eliminate words such as heard, saw, watched, imagined, wondered, felt.

Bad:      I felt my breath catch.

Good: My breath caught.

Bad:      She heard the lock snap shut.

Good:       The lock snapped shut.

Bad:      He felt a chill go through his body.

Good: A chill went through his body.  Or: Ice skated through his veins.

Self-Editing tip #5

Vary your sentence length. Don’t be James T. Kirk.

Bad: The monster picked up a boulder. It glittered in the sunlight. James prayed to the Father. The monster threw the boulder.

Better: The monster picked up a boulder, which glittered in the sunlight, and threw it. James prayed to the Father.

Self-Editing tip #6

Redundant adverbs. The general rule is to kill your adverbs and use a stronger verb instead. If the adverb doesn’t add to the verb, drop it.

Mike yelled loudly. (How else do you yell?)

Sarah whispered quietly. (How else do you whisper?)

The frost eventually withered the vines in the garden. (wither implies an slow, eventual process)

Eric quickly grabbed the treasure. (grabbed implies a quick movement)

Self-Editing tip #7

Flying body parts. This error often involves the description of eyes.

Her eyes ran over my body. (ouch)

His eyes landed on me. (ew)

She held up her arm. (didn’t that hurt?)

His eyes glued on mine. (ouch, that has to hurt)

self-editing tips

Use gaze, stare, glance, etc for a better description of eyes..

Self-Editing tip #8

Be aware of what you’ve said in previous scenes, and even in the same scene. In the book I edited, the main character walked into a room with nothing in it but a couch and a television. But a few sentences later, someone sat on a chair and laid something on a coffee table. What?

Self-Editing tip #9

Be aware of word repetition. This can sneak up on you but can be caught by reading your work aloud. I use Scrivener and Word’s text-to-speech feature.

Beside me, Jane gasped. We gasped as the monster picked up a second boulder.

I gulped as I prayed for deliverance. Jane gulped as the boulder sailed over our heads and landed ten feet away.

Self-Editing tip #10

In the same vein, be aware of your favorite words and expressions. Do your characters sigh all the time? Frown? Scowl? Nod? Touch their cheek or chin? Rub their arms for no apparent reason? Turn to the other person every other sentence? Be aware of your writing tics and eliminate them.

Self-Editing tip #11

Passive voice. OMG, it’s one of my pet peeves, and my first book earned me the Passive Voice Crown.

Bad:       We were surrounded by monsters.

Better:      The monsters surrounded us.

Bad: A shimmer was in the air.

Better: The air shimmered.

Bad: The monster was glaring at us.

Better: The monster glared at us.

Self-editing tip #12

Dialogue tags. Use said. It’s invisible to the reader. Better yet, switch up the dialogue tags with action.

Bad: “Try throwing another rock,” Sarah laughed. (You can’t laugh words)

Better: Sarah taunted the monster. “Try throwing another rock.”

So, there you have it, an even dozen self-editing tips. Don’t be like me when I started. Learn from feedback. Read articles, ask questions, watch videos, and listen to podcasts. Every drop of wisdom you absorb will make you a better writer.



This blog is part of #AuthorToolboxBlogHop, a monthly event featuring resources for authors. Each month, we share our writing tips. To follow other authors or join, visit RaimeyGallant or follow the #AuthorToolboxBlogHop hashtag on Twitter.

Bad: “Try throwing another rock,” Sarah laughed. (You can’t laugh words)

Better: Sarah taunted the monster. “Try throwing another rock.”

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Birth Order Part 2 #TT

Birth Order Part 2 #TT

It’s #ThrowbackThursday, and we’re revisiting a 2/20/12 post about birth order, part 2 of the series. (Birth Order Part 2 #TT)

Part 1 can be read here.

Birth Order Part 2

Last week, we looked at the peculiarities of the first born and middle child. In Birth Order Part 2, we’ll examine the last born, only child and twins. The way they behave can help you in crafting your story’s characters.

Last Born Children

Birth order part 2 #TT. The last born child.

Bess-Hamiti / Pixabay

Last born children fight hard to get noticed. They are often the class clown, the maverick, the life of the party. Their older siblings consider them spoiled.Click To Tweet

Characteristics of the youngest include:

Manipulative Charming Show off People person Casts blame on others
Engaging Good salesperson Precocious Risk taker Outgoing


Careers include “On stage” professions – TV announcers and anchor people, salespeople (because of their ability to manipulate people). They like jobs where they can work alone and do things at their own pace.

Strengths Weaknesses
Outgoing, affectionate, creative, confident, uncomplicated, Spoiled, manipulative, immature, self-centered, impetuous, feel they live in the shadow, rebellious, absentminded


Why? “Taught out” parents let the kid fend for himself.

They are suckers for praise and encouragement. Their attention-seeking antics can be turned around with a “I’ll show them” attitude.

Famous last born children include Howard Stern, Jay Leno, Danny DeVito, Steve Martin.

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Birth Order Part 1 #ThrowbackThursday


This blog about birth order appeared (with slight changes) on February 13, 2012.

Birth Order


Why Your Characters Behave The Way They Do

Does your hero run a large corporation? Is he a mover and shaker in the business world? Or is he in a creative field such as advertising or entertainment? Does he negotiate well? Speak first and regret it afterward? Maybe he’s the life of every party.

Whatever his occupation, you can bet his birth order had an effect on his personality and career choice. First born children generally share characteristics, as do last borns and middle borns. Not all attributes apply to each birth order, but on average studies have shown them to be more true than not.

Today, we’ll discuss the peculiarities of the first born and the middle child. Next week, we’ll look at the youngest, only child and twins as well as the variables that can affect their behavior.

Birth order. Whatever your character's occupation, you can bet his birth order had an effect on his personality and career choice.


First Born Children

First Born children usually have the most attention directed at him/her, even before birth, because the pregnancy was a BIG DEAL. More likely than not, multiple generations pin their hopes and dreams on them and pressure them to perform from day one.

They are their parents’ “guinea pig”, and their parents often overdo and overprotect their first born child. The first born child grows up faster. Parents hand them responsibility early.

Some common characteristics:

Perfectionist Reliable List maker Organized Critical
Goal oriented Prompt Scholarly In control Well groomed
Motivated to achieve success Believes in law and order No gray areas Likes structure Logical
Critical Energetic Ambitious Enterprising Serious


Professions – A higher percentage of first borns are in science, medicine, law, accounting, architecture, engineers, computers, and reporters (except on air).

He gets things done and has confidence in being taken seriously by others.

21 of the first 23 astronauts were first born children.

2/3 of entrepreneurs are first born children.

Strengths Weaknesses
High confidence level, taken seriously, strong concentration, confident, feels supported and that they will be respected for what they do A fear of being dethroned, overachiever, strong-willed, feel as though they’re never good enough, selfish, critical


Two typical types

First born children come in two typical types – compliant/willing to please and assertive/strong willed.

The compliant first born grows up as a pleaser of others. Since childhood, he was the one responsible to get things done. His parents depended on him, and it was his solemn duty to not let them down.

Common characteristics of the compliant first born:

Reliable Good student Pleaser Nurturer Strong need for approval
Won’t complain Team player Conscientious Cooperative “Grin & bear it” mentality


The second type is the assertive, strong willed type. They are the pace-setters and trend-setters. They have high expectations, not only of themselves, but everyone else.

Common characteristics of the assertive first born:

Assertive Strong-willed Precise Insistent High achiever
Driven Perfectionist In control Want things their way Conventional


Famous first borns:

Oprah, Charlton Heston, Rush Limbaugh



Middle Children

Middle childrens’ attitude and lifestyle plays off that of the firstborn child. Generally, their personalities are the opposite of their older sibling. If he senses he can compete, he will. If the older child is stronger or smarter, the second may go off in another direction.

Middle borns may feel like a fifth wheel. They go outside of their family to create a “family” with friends.Middles are the most secretive of all birth orders, because they feel the world isn’t paying attention and chose not to confide their plans.

They are the last to seek professional help because they consider themselves mentally tough and independent.

Others consider them the most monogamous, and they have a strong commitment to make the marriage work.

Professions include sales, art, advertising, a career that involves negotiating or being level headed and unbiased.

They are tenacious because they’re used to life being unfair.

Middle children characteristics include:

Strengths Weaknesses
Peacemakers, unspoiled, realistic, imaginative, loyal, mediator, independent, flexible, diplomatic Hates confrontation, stubborn, suspicious, rebellious, “family” is friends, difficulty setting boundaries


Like first borns, they come in two types.

Type 1:

Loner Quiet, shy Impatient Uptight Fights for respect


Type 2:

Outgoing Friendly Loud Laid back Patient


Famous middle children are Donald Trump, Tim Allen, Julia Roberts, Richard Nixon, David Letterman

Birth Order: Resources

The Birth Order Book, Why You Are The Way You Are by Dr. Kevin Leman

The Ultimate Personality Guide by Jennifer Freed and Debra Birnbaum




If you’d like to read my blog posts on birth order, I’ve compiled them in a book on Amazon.

Amazon Birth Order is a compilation of previous blog posts.

Part 2 will re-post for next week’s #ThrowbackThursday.



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