Eight Productive Self-Editing Tips
If you are a writer and you want to separate yourself from the mediocre talents in your industry, you have to work on your self-editing skills. All writers know how to write, but only great ones know how to edit.
Editing someone else’s work is difficult enough, but writers find it nearly impossible to edit their own writing. The reason is simple – they are too personally attached to it and don’t want to change it, so many of them decide to skip the whole editing process altogether. However, getting your piece right and making it better for your readers is your ultimate goal, so we recommend you to start developing your editing skills through our eight simple tips.
Sandra Miller is a freelance writer at editing service Help. Plagtracker. She is extremely passionate about latest trends in education technology. Keeps developing her writing style and exploring the different types of fiction. Currently takes her first steps toward writing her first YA novel.
1. Finish writing, then start editing
You have probably heard this advice many times by now, but it is very important: do not stop to edit while you are still in the process of writing. Many writers find it difficult to implement this advice into practice, so they go back to delete entire paragraphs or sentences before they finish the chapter.
It is completely okay to take a break from writing to correct some obvious error, or restart a sentence that doesn’t sound right. This can be done while you are working on your first draft, but you have to keep writing when your creative inspiration is in its full potential.
2. Put the work aside before editing
Before you start editing your work, it would be wise to let it sit for few days, or even a few hours if it’s a short piece, such as a blog post. However, take more time if you have just finished writing a novel. You need to stop obsessing over it for at least one or two weeks before you come back to it and start editing it.
This will help you see your work with a fresh mind, and it will be easy for you to spot the inconsistencies in the characters, the holes in the plot, and the chapters that don’t fit well in the big picture.
3. Change the format
If you physically turn the words into a different format, you will easily spot the mistakes. This is a trick for your mind: you will change the things it is used to seeing, and you’ll start noticing problems that didn’t stand out before.
4. Structure and content needs to be edited first
The greatest mistake most writers make is starting their editing on sentence level – they polish up every single sentence, and then they start cutting out the useless parts of the material. Your work will be much more efficient if you focus on the big picture first. Start looking for useless sections and chapters that should be left out for some reason. Maybe you will think of some missing information that needs to be added, or some sections that require radical revisions.
These major adjustments should be done before you start working on the individual words and sentences.
5. The ‘10% of the word count rule”
Your editing work isn’t done when you’re broadly happy with the flow and shape of your peace. Now is the time to cut on the word count. If you are like most writers, you probably use more words than necessary. That weakens the argument, so you need to cut 10% of the entire word count.
Get rid of sentences and paragraphs that repeat a point that has already been elaborated. Cut out the wishy-washy phrases and unnecessary adjectives, and you will have a much cleaner piece that will leave stronger impressions.
6. Spell-Check is great, but don’t avoid reading
Your work should be always checked with spell-check, but you should be aware of the fact that some errors go by unnoticed by this tool. Only your careful editing eye can catch homophones and missing words.
7. Read backwards
This is a strange, but effective technique: read the piece starting from the end towards the beginning. If that’s too unusual for you, then increase the font size and read the piece very slowly. At the final stage of editing, everything is so familiar to you that even the most obvious mistakes seem completely natural. These two tricks will help you catch the errors that were sliding past you.
8. Finally: Let it go!
Don’t fall into the trap of endless editing. You need to eventually stop and put your work out in the world. Even if you don’t feel entirely confident, you should publish the work when you catch yourself rewriting a paragraph and then changing it back, or putting commas in and then taking them out. Even if some imperfections remain unedited, you will still have more use from a published piece than from the one that sits on your computer for ages.