Cut, Shape, Polish

How to edit your own stories

This course is ideal for: People who have finished (or nearly finished) a draft of their manuscript

You will:
Gain editing skills that will improve your story
Understand what you need to cut – and add – to your story
Know which characters need fleshing out
Easily identify plot holes and structural issues
Polish your manuscript into a publishable piece of work.

“In Cut, Shape, Polish, the checklist was so helpful. I have a printed copy that I will be using in all my edits. All the course handouts that contained lists and tables were also really helpful for me. Not only did it help keep me on track, but it also allowed me to see how I was slowly moving forward in my edits, and allowed me to break certain parts of the book down to make sure each scene was earning its keep and every character was three dimensional.”
Madeline Te Whiu, Cut, Shape, Polish graduate and author of The Assassin Thief

See more reviews
Key information
Key information:
This is an online self-paced course
Duration 1 This is an online self-paced course

Your 12 months' access begins straight away

Your 12 months' access begins straight away

Course Creators:
Angela Slatter and Pamela Freeman
Course Creators:
Angela Slatter and Pamela Freeman


Overview of this course

So, you’ve written “The End”. Your magnum opus is done, so it’s time to send it off to a publisher or agent, right?

Actually, probably not. The feedback we get from publishers is that the stories which are sent to them are often not ‘cooked’ – that is, the writer has sent an early draft without doing enough editing and rewriting.

The story might have a lot of potential – and they can see you have talent – but you need to polish it more before publishers will genuinely consider it a contender.

You need to be sure that your story (whether it’s a novel or short form work) is in the best state it can possibly be before you submit it to the market. After all, you only get one chance to make a first impression!

If you send a manuscript off too soon, thinking that a publisher or agent will do the rest of the work for you, you’ll blow your chances. You need to edit your manuscript until it’s as perfect as you can get it. By this, we don’t just mean ensuring your spelling, punctuation and formatting are correct, but to fix the big issues: structure, character and pace.

But what do you do when you have a finished manuscript sitting in front of you and don’t know where to start? This course will take you through the process step-by-step, so you can be sure you haven’t overlooked any way to make your story the best it can be.

Luke Rutledge, author of A Man and His Pride, is convinced that without the courses at the AWC he “wouldn’t be getting published”.
See how Cut, Shape, Polish helped him fix the ‘saggy middle’ of his story.

Reviews of Cut, Shape, Polish

“I found the course useful in demystifying the process of self-editing by breaking down an overwhelming process into ordered and structured steps. I have no doubt my books will be much improved for the knowledge I now possess!”

– Shannon Meyerkort

“I liked that it was so in depth and provided exercises to complete that I might not have done otherwise. I think I've done a much better job at self-editing my manuscript because of this course.Just do it!”

– Samantha Valentine

“I like that the modules are focussed on specific topics and split the editing process up so you can tackle one topic at a time. Feels less overwhelming. I feel more energised to deal with the editing process and feel ready to make the time to write the next draft.”

– Jo Crowe

“If you follow all the steps properly, that you will end up with a far better novel than what you started with.”

– Laura Di Scala

As well as the basics, like fixing spelling and grammar mistakes, you also need to be certain that: 

  • The structure of your story is spot on
  • Your characters are compelling
  • The descriptions are as effective as they can be
  • Your tale’s voice and tone are pitch perfect
  • There are no inconsistencies in your story.

You might think that you’ve addressed these factors in your writing. But this course gives you the skills to do a true audit of whether you’ve hit the mark.

By the end of this course, you will master the skills to:

  • Identify any structural issues and fix them. You’ll learn how to solidify your story's structure, keep your pacing tight and create a story that works to the climax in the strongest possible way.
  • Create a seamless journey for your reader. This is about equipping yourself with the skills to know what is required for a smooth reading experience. When a reader is jarred out of your “world”, your story becomes less credible. So you’ll learn what to look out for in terms of plot holes, point of view glitches, inconsistencies, and so on. If it’s not easily readable, your story will not hold the reader’s attention.
  • Εnhance your chances of being published. An editor is unlikely to pick up a story filled with spelling errors, infelicities of grammar, formatting errors etc., and decide they want to publish it. If you do not pay attention to the details, you make your story harder to tell (and sell).
  • Ensure your writing is compact and readable. This is to make sure you use the most appropriate words to get your story across. While exposition is an important part of writing – it’s giving your readers the information they need in order to understand the story – too much exposition can become the infamous “info-dump”. That is those wordy, sometimes patronising, often unnecessary, obtrusive and downright boring slabs of information thrown down in the one place with no thought for subtlety or foreshadowing or a skilful reveal.
  • Achieve clarity and communication. We know the message we want to get across but does that measure up to our final manuscript? You’ll learn the skills to determine whether you’ve truly achieved your goal.
  • Make sure the story does what you set out to do. We tell tales to connect, to share and to entertain − ourselves and others. Your story should grab the reader’s attention, entertain and satisfy them, and hopefully resonate and be remembered. That effect doesn’t happen by accident, and learning how to self-edit will help you to shape your story in the best way possible.

In this self-paced course, you’ll learn how to get your work to a professional level before you send your work out to an agent or publisher.

“This course was so thorough and easy to follow. It reassured me about what I have done well in my novel and has showed me where I need to do more work. It demystifies what it takes to create a great story without taking away the magic.”

Naomi Shippen, Cut, Shape, Polish graduate

How our “self-paced courses” work

This is one of AWC’s 35+ “self-paced” online courses. But what does that mean? Allow us to explain:


Q: I've been writing for a while and have completed several courses. Should I do this course?
A: This course is particularly useful if you're at the final stages of your manuscript and you need a valuable resource as you review your work with fresh eyes. By following the powerful editing framework, you'll be able to refine your stories so they're ready to submit to publishers. If you have solid foundation skills in fiction and would like to self-edit your stories with more confidence – you'll love Cut, Shape, Polish.

Q: Will this course help me if I’m writing a non-fiction book or memoir?
A: In this course, the emphasis is on fiction. However, editing memoir, in particular, is very much like editing fiction and you’ll learn many transferable skills. For non-fiction books, it will depend on the subject and style of writing. It’s not designed for self-help writing, for example, but a biographer or creative non-fiction writer could find it useful.

Q: Will I get the skills to work as a fiction editor?
A: No. Working as an editor for a publisher, or as a freelance editor for self-published writers, is a highly skilled job and a short course cannot give you the skills you need to do that. Moreover, this course concentrates on self-editing. Editing other people’s work needs a substantially different set of skills.

If you want to be an editor professionally, the best place to go for advice is the Institute of Professional Editors.

Q: Will I receive feedback or complete exercises to help me know if I’m on the right track?
A: This is a self-paced course and designed for you to work through on your own. It’s a handy resource to have while you’re redrafting your manuscript and includes some exercises to help reinforce your learning. But to receive personalised feedback, we recommend our tutor-led courses. For beginners, start with Creative Writing Stage 1. For those just starting a novel, Novel Writing Essentials. And if you have a substantial section of your novel written (including a full draft or even a second or third draft), we recommend our Write Your Novel program.

There are also courses which concentrate on specific genres – just check out this website!

Flexible learning is available right now. Transform your fiction writing by purchasing this self-paced course today!

Key information
Key information:
This is an online self-paced course
Duration 1 This is an online self-paced course

Your 12 months' access begins straight away

Your 12 months' access begins straight away

Course Creators:
Angela Slatter and Pamela Freeman
Course Creators:
Angela Slatter and Pamela Freeman


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