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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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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