How to Bring Your Writing to the Next Level

10 HINTS FOR SELF-EDITING (re-blogged from ‘Write to Done’)

The old cliché “practice makes perfect” applies to the editing process. Many best- selling authors note that the art of writing is really the art of re-writing!

Polishing what you write can make all the difference. Take diamonds. In the raw, only experts can spot them. But once they are cut and polished, they sparkle and shine.This is what good editing can do to your writing.But there is a problem.

The old cliché “practice makes perfect” applies to the editing process. Many best-            selling authors note that the art of writing is really the art of re-writing!

The good news is that self-editing is a skill that can be developed.

Sound good? Let’s get to it.

1.Get Some Distance from Your Writing

In many cases, the reason you find it hard to go back over your work is that it   makes you feel bad. It may be that you don’t feel satisfied with your work and   worry about how it will be received. You may also been just plain bored with it! Whatever the negative emotion, a way to face it is to imagine that you are sitting  down to edit someone else’s work. That can help give you the distance to see your  writing from a fresh perspective. And take comfort from the fact that many  successful authors hate their first drafts too!

“For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact,    the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first  drafts”.

Anne Lamott

2 Give it a Rest

Another way to get distance from your writing is to leave at least 24 hours from  the time you finish until the time you start your serious editing attempts.Your brain knows your work and so will fill in the gaps where missing words are, or will autocorrect spelling errors without you even realizing it!

When you come back after a break, you will be able to see your writing without     the additional “help” from your brain

3 Change the format

This is an old editor’s trick for catching bad phrasing, double or missing words.  Print it out, read it on Kindle, magnify the screen or change the font and font size. Read your writing slowly out loud. A nice trick is to have Adobe Reader read it to you. The dull computerized voice   will quickly help you pick up the errors your brain omits!

4 Change locations While editing

Self-editing can be a boring process and you may find your attention start to          wander. When you find your attention drifting, Cal Newport, a prolific writer and college professor recommends that you try moving physical locations. He tried this experiment when working on a particularly challenging piece of  work. He found himself moving every half an hour, and each time the move brought about renewed energy for the task.

5 Eliminate distractions

Catching those small, pesky errors requires that you pay close attention to your    work. If you are attempting to multi-task, by juggling between email, Facebook,  and Twitter, they are going to find their way into your final piece. Set yourself small and manageable distraction-free time chunks and focus solely     on editing.

6 Remember Who You Are Writing for

Knowing your audience and holding an image of one reader in mind while you        edit will help you write in a way which is appropriate. This will affect your choice of words and tone. If you are writing a blog post you will tend to be conversational and use contractions – isn’t instead of is not. You’ll speak in the first person and avoid the passive tense.If you’re writing an academic piece, you’ll make different choices. Editing with   one reader in mind will ensure consistency.

7 Start With the Big picture

Start with the big picture – the core message and overall structure- and check for    clarity, consistency and flow. Ask yourself how well the different parts contribute        to the central message or narrative. You may find yourself making big structural changes at the point, even eliminating big chunks of writing, which is why doing a line by line edit at this stage isn’t a good idea. And be sure to be able to answer the question “what’s the point?”

8 Cut Out the fluff

Be brutal! Readers have short attention spans these days, and even if you are writing a novel, a short tolerance for long rambling sentences (I’m not commenting on whether  this is a good thing, it just is a trend). Look for times where you repeat yourself, state the obvious, or add extra information that doesn’t need to be there.

9 Grammar, punctuation and Spelling (gpS

)Many of us have words that we like to use regularly that find their way into every  few sentences. Some of the most common habit words are “so”, “just”,“actually”, “literally”, and “very”. Keep a list of your common offenders and then search and see if you can replace   them without altering your intended meaning.

10 Read Your Work Backwards

The final tip, is to read over your work, starting from the end. This helps to   combat a common pattern where we pay good attention at the beginning, but our attention wanes as we get further into the piece. This way, you can be sure that     your conclusion is as tight and polished as your introduction.

Following these tips will help you become a better writer, help you avoid the        embarrassment of making obvious mistakes, and ensure your work is more   convincing and credible.


Copyright Mary Jaksch, 2015



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