Editing your own work is always a challenge. It’s easy to read over typos because your brain tends to see what it expects. You also have your own writing style, which of course will seem natural to you, even if it has something fundamentally unclear that a reader will trip over.
One way to help overcome these obstacles is to read your story aloud. You can tell more easily if the flow of the words is natural, often discovering a better way to arrange them. If nothing else, read the dialog out loud, which helps determine whether or not it sounds authentic.
Know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…
That phrase from the Kenny Rogers’s song, “The Gambler,” came to mind the other day and reminded me of how difficult it can be to edit your own work. As authors we tend to be attached to our own words, especially when we say something really clever. Yet sometimes, it really does nothing for the story other than to slow it down.
It requires a high level of objectivity to cut something out of your own work. It isn’t easy and for some, it’s impossible. Sometimes letting your work sit for a while so you can go back and see it as a reader would works. If you absolutely can’t do it, hire someone. Just make sure they know what they’re doing. I know too many people who have been ripped off by editors who really didn’t do a proper job.
Remember that there are several kinds of editors, i.e. copy editors, line editors, and content editors, to name a few. If your work requires all three, but is only reviewed for one or the other, it will still have problems.
Editing is essential, but it’s extremely difficult to edit your own work. Letting your work rest as long as possible before revising and/or editing helps view it more objectively. If you absolutely can’t afford an editor, arrange a beta exchange with another author, preferably one who’s seasoned, not just someone who will praise your work. Make sure both of you are skilled enough to do the job and clarify your expectations.