9 best practices that can drive your editing process, part I

blake morrison

This is one of the topics I haven’t written about on the blog before and finally that time came. I know how it is hard to edit your own writing and I will share what in my experience has brought me the most effectiveness in this area.  This post will be divided in two parts and I hope it will help you in your editing process as well.

One of the first things I noticed, depending on your genre of writing and worth keeping in mind is that:

  • Editing of non-fiction writing is far different from editing fiction writing – there are more factors involved that constitutes making a good story, character than in developing an instructional texts, for example.
  • When you are writing an e-book, that requires different format and ‘packaging’ in comparing to your shorter versions you write for an online community like blog posts.
  • A paper copy of your book is very hard to correct (actually once it goes in printing that’s about it) than comparing to a digital version of your work.
  • Your final version of the manuscript that goes to agents, publishers or to be used as reference in some way (like student books) requires that you give all you’ve got to make it understandable and comprehensive as much as possible.

Now, when you spend years in some form of writing, your editing approach evolves as much as your writing. How your writing improves, somehow your need for editing is adapting – still, I always aim to stay true to myself in my communication. That’s the core rule.

Nevertheless, there are few effective tricks that help me become more productive in my editing:

1. Reading out loud.

Only by reading your writing out loud you can get the feel how it gets perceived by the reader. You notice the rhythm and fluency of your words. It can help you immensely.

To carefully edit, read it out loud a few times, and then move on.

2.Let it ‘marinate’ over night.

It gives you an opportunity to observe your writing from fresh and clear perspective; it helps you restore your inspiration and tap into your own creativity – than any revision goes smoothly and you are able to express your thoughts more eloquently.

3. Edit in intervals.

When you read your writing, a lot of things might bug you at the same time: poor grammar, repeating phrases, mushy sentences…When you edit, try to focus on only one thing at the time. For example:

The first time, go through content, cohesion and rhythm of your writing. Are there any ideas that are disconnected, gaps of information, ext? Reading out loud helps you find these omissions. Or even better –  read the piece out loud to someone unfamiliar with the subject and listen to where they start asking questions or looking for clarity. That means you haven’t explained something well enough, and requires further elaboration.

The second time pay attention to your structure and with what impression leaves you the piece as a whole when read? Is there anything you need to emphasize? Does the format supports the purpose of your writing? Always format accordingly to your requirements to show your professionalism. It’s easier for readers to digest information presented and editors prefer industry-standard formatting.

The third time you edit, focus on details, typos and grammar. Probably  you’ve already found some of these by reading your work twice before. Some tips you can use here include:

– use action verbs instead of passive ones;

– avoid using grammar expletives;

– don’t dwell too much on punctuation rules.

Do you know your 5 most frequent words you use in your writing? Overuse of certain words can make your writing repetitive, boring, uninviting. Don’t be afraid to use different words especially in fiction like slang, words from different languages and less used phrases. I like to use slang or terms of natural phenomenon when I want to accentuate a situation or a character. It can spice up your writing and make it more interesting. Can that confuse your reader? Maybe, but look at it like you are offering your reader an opportunity to learn something new. A tiny dash of mysteriousness in your writing can do no harm – on the contrary – it gives special charm and flavor to your piece.

In the next part we’ll talk more about how to silent that inner critique that simply sabotages our editing productivity.

How does your editing process look like?


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15 Comments

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    • Well,people tend to terrorize themselves during self-edit process and endlessly rewrite things. In my academic career I have worked as an editor and reviewer also and I’ve seen how people struggle. My experience has thought me how to be productive and prepare a writing for a professional proofreading. This is what this post is all about. In the second part I intend to address more of that self-criticism that arises in our writing and it’s an obstacle for many writers. Hence that challenge can be effectively eliminated.

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