5 Books to Help You Self-Edit Your Novel

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Last year I edited two manuscripts and it was hard work. I often felt overwhelmed, dejected and directionless. I found myself on the hunt for valuable resources to provide me with some guidance to make the process easier. I found some amazing books and they really helped me revise my manuscripts to the best possible standard that I can do on my own.

Here’s what I recommend (the book titles link to Goodreads


  1. Self-Editing For Fiction Writers by Browne & King (2nd ed)

This book was recommended by my critique partner in my writing group. After flipping through the contents page and hearing how he had read it cover to cover several times and then applied the suggestions to not only his manuscripts, but his complete back-catalogue of short stories (and there was a lot!)- i knew he was onto a good thing. I ordered a copy the same day. It covers all the basics from dialogue mechanics to point of view, but then delves into those trickier concepts such as ‘show don’t tell,’ ‘easy beats’ and ‘interior monologue.’


2. Structuring Your Novel by K.M. Weiland (2013)

I came across K.M Weiland’s website when I was searching for resources on structuring my novel. Even after 7 manuscripts, i find structure and plot points challenging. As a pantser, this book helped me go back over my main plot points and make sure they were in the right place. It’s jam-packed with examples and excerpts, covering the ‘hook,’ ‘inciting incident,’ ‘midpoint,’ ‘climax’ and more. It breaks the novel down into Acts which I find extremely useful.


3. Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland

A great companion book to Structuring Your Novel with a focus on the character development in relation to the story structure. I tend to think of my stories as character driven rather than plot-driven, so i like how this shows the emotional journey the character takes at each of the major plot points. It also delves into the character’s ghost, minor characters and how to approach a character arc in a series.


4. The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maas

Love this one! It also looks at the character in in terms of the emotional arc and plot. Maas backs up each section with plenty of exercises that you can apply directly to your manuscript to make sure it has an emotional punch.

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5. Thesaurus Series by Becca Puglisi

Rather than comment on just one of these books, I figure the whole series is worth a mention. I own a few of these books and i find the ‘negative trait thesaurus’ and the ’emotional wound thesaurus’ very helpful when I  need to tap into what’s happening for my character or some ideas on how to challenge them.

And that’s it, for now. I would love to know if other writers often refer to any of these books, or if you have other recommendations.


  • Thank you for this post, for a few reasons. One, I am editing and feeling directionless and overwhelmed too. It’s nice to know it’s not just me! And also because these books sound really great and I’m looking forward to checking them out. I have a couple from the Thesaurus series and they are fab. Thank you for the suggestions 🙂 x

    • You’re very welcome! Editing is hard work and when you look at a lengthy manuscript it’s hard to know where on earth to begin. I hope you find one or more of these books of some use. Best of luck with the edits!

    • You’re welcome, Belinda. I’m happy to hear the post was of some use to you. Best of luck with your edits 🙂

  • Thanks for the suggestions, Lauren. I have a couple of books from the Thesaurus Series, but am yet to get my hands on Donald Maas’s book, The Emotional Craft of Fiction. I’ve heard great things about it, and now it’s got Mothers Day present’ written all over it 🤣. I’m going to have to put of little posters of the cover all over the house and see what happens!

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