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

Art-Plotnik

In the first part of this blog post I shared some of my favorite practices that can help you become more efficient when it comes to editing. But there are more things you can do to become even more productive:

  • Track Your Bad Habits.  If you want to be better at your writing and editing, try to notice your typical mistakes and actions. Commonly misusing a word or phrase? Highlight that word or write it on a sticky note somewhere you will see it often. It will remind you not to use it and think of more creative ways to say something. One thing that really works for me is to write myself notes  for anything I need to correct. It’s a learning process in progress and how your writing improves, less things you will want to fix.
  • Try reading it backwards. This is a bit weird, but it helps you become more aware of what you wrote. Begin with the last sentence and move up from there. You can see does your writing builds momentum, some sort of positive tension of expectation: words play with your logic and your focus improves – you can better sense the fluency and rhythm of your writing
  • Don’t be hard on your self. The truth is there is no perfect writing. Your task is to do your best with given time-frame, conditions and knowledge you have. That has to be enough.

Now, my students often used  to ask me: “Can you over-edit your work and how that can harm your writing?” and I think it’s a good question to answer.

Over-editing can prevent you from sharing your knowledge and message with rest of the world. Your writing doesn’t have to be 100% perfect in order to help and inspire someone. When you you are tempted not to publish your work, that’s almost the same as you have erased all of your work – it can’t help anyone if it’s hidden in your computer folders. Instead of torturing yourself  over grammatical perfection, ask yourself does your writing brings any value to your readers? The next thing is, it simply kills your productivity. Over-editing wastes time and energy. It’s tiring, it sucks the inspiration out of your body and mind.

How to recognize you are over-editing?

  • you are endlessly rewriting what you already wrote, without moving on to write something new. That holds the danger of you losing your own writing voice and the purpose of your writing. When you edit your piece too many times, you can end up editing every drop of life out of it. A conversational style is becoming more popular and you shouldn’t shy from it. It helps you connect with your readers and express your won personality through words. Even in business communication you need to stir up your writing and avoid being too stiff;
  • you let fear command your editing and you start to doubt something you previously considered good.
  • you sense something is wrong or missing but you can’t figure it out and that keeps you stuck at one page.

So, what to do about it?

Our habit to over – edit is connected with critical side of our brain that seeks approval and strives for impossible perfectionism. One little trick that might help is to make notes for yourself what you want to accomplish in writing that day – bring intentionality to your writing.

Monitor your self-talk and tell yourself you’ll deal with it later. You might be saying to yourself something like “This is just too boring.” Or “I’m a really bad writer.” The trick is to be conscious of it. Then, answer to yourself in kind and gentle way–

“I’m writing right now the best I can;  I’ll deal with these concerns later.”

This kind of silent promise you give to yourself shuts down that resentful critic and allows more space for creativity.

Many of us spend more time editing than on the actual writing. Editing is a just a tool that helps us improve what we already wrote, but it doesn’t determine are you bad or good writer. What mostly matters is the idea and the purpose behind it.

Now, it’s your turn: do you have any editing tricks to share with us?


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6 Comments

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  1. No matter how carefully you edit on-screen, you’ll find errors you wouldn’t believe you made. For error-free work, print the piece out and give it a hard edit (on paper with pencil).

    If I find I’m putting back in a word I took out, I will start from the beginning and take a good look at what I want for the piece.

    Good solid advice in your posts. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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