Editing

Though I am an aspiring author, I would like to share a few tips with the writing community.

Editing is a necessary evil. It’s not as much fun as actually writing, and forces a writer to be objective about their work. I have found that in order to be successful in editing, I need to remain as objective as possible. It’s easy to defend my work to others on word choice, structure, point of view, etc. The fact is that what I think about my work really doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s mine but in order to make it suitable for publication there’s some heavy lifting involved. So far that’s nothing new to anyone who has written for publication.

What I’ve learned is that after finishing the first draft, put it away for a week or two or even longer. Write something else. The longer I forget about what I’ve written the better I can edit. If I write, then immediately edit, I’m too biased to make any meaningful changes. I’ll find a missing or misspelled word, but that doesn’t help in the big picture. Time allows me fresh looks at my work . In my novel revision, I’ve change characters, added characters, and deleted characters. Time afforded me that opportunity. I really didn’t change much about the main characters after the first revision because I started right after the first draft. Lesson learned.

The next piece of editing advice: print out your work. Seeing writing on paper is easier on the eyes. Especially if you’re in front of a computer screen most of the day (like me). Also, printing will allow you read like you’re reading a book or magazine. I might be off base, but when I read a computer screen, I scan making it easy to miss subject/ verb agreements, missing words, etc. I find this most important part of editing. Simple grammar mistakes can make the most accomplished author look silly. I’ll spend whatever it takes to have a hard copy before I submit anything now.

Use colored ink! Forget the color red. Unless you’re a teacher, red is out. I heard there’s stigma with the color red on white paper. It draws out bad childhood memories or something. I don’t know if that’s accurate but using green, blue, purple, or orange makes a huge difference. Maybe it’s my softer side, but it’s gentler to use than red, which just screams at me now. A simple technique that takes the sting out of editing.

Finally, read out loud. I probably don’t do this enough. Reading out loud helps me figure out if my style is working, if my dialogue sound right, or if my story makes sense. I have the hardest time with missing words because I think think faster than I type. Reading out loud catches those mistakes. This is probably the most valuable technique because if you want to know what your writing is like, listen to it. 

Hopefully, I reemphasized what you already knew or got you thinking differently about editing. It’s might the hardest part of writing but it has to be done especially if you want break into the business. I’m still learning. What I’ve been practicing has produced some results. If you’re reading this and have some ideas, I’d love to see them.

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3 Comments

  1. I live it, breathe it, and practice it as if I wrote this post myself. I can’t recall any instruction on this from college essay days, but for whatever reason I just found out through trial and error this works for me, except I don’t use the color ink rule. However, if I’m editing from the computer I will highlight sections in a color–blue works for me. So, I agree with this great post all the way, and suggest if others new to chasing getting published try out this advice and see if it helps. One last thing–for me I like the word revision more than edit since that’s what it amounts to when I do it. It may define the same, but revision seems to mean recreate with a fresh set of eyeballs and ideas. I hope I’m on the same page as you. Great post.

    • Thanks for the comment. Editing ,to me, is more about the syntax and mechanics of writing. Revision, to me, is just how you explained which is…right on! I treat theses two differently, but as you eluded to in your post that they can be defined almost the same way. Actually, in an earlier post on this blog I refer to “revising” my novel. I guess, bottom line, no matter how many times I look at my writing I wind up changing something. Nature of the beast, I guess!

      As fellow horror writer, I like your blog and would like to add you to my blogroll. Any objections, just let me know. I’m going to spend sometime this weekend to read “Slick”.

      Thanks,
      Chris

  2. […] words. How was actually the easy part. As I reread every single page, I had my orange pen (see my Editing post for why orange) and slashed away at redundancy, run-ons, incomplete thoughts, you name it! I […]


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