Here is a big surprise: writers love writing, but they hate editing. The joy of creating is brought to an end when the repetitive methodologies and tedious grammar rules step on the stage. However, self-editing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As incomprehensible as it may seem, editing is a profession some people enjoy. This is why we decided to provide you with tips from an editor, so you will understand that the real purpose of editing is to make your writing better.
It is surprising that many writers feel like they don’t need to be worried about spelling and grammar, because the clean up is their editor’s job. Let’s clear the air on this once and for all: no, it’s not your editor’s job to worry about your spelling and grammar. It’s yours! Freelance editors may be more forgiving of sentences that seem to have be written by a drunk person, but that doesn’t mean they enjoy repairing (or actually rewriting) something that is not even readable. All editors expect the writers to go through detailed proofreading before they forward their work into the editing phase.
If you are a writer who’s scared of editing, the first thing you should realize is that it isn’t that difficult. With these helpful insights, you will be able to approach it with ease.
1. Step back!
You know how artists step back to see their paintings from a different perspective? The idea is that the artists can’t see the unity of their work unless they step back and change their point of view. This makes a lot of sense when you see it from a writer’s aspect. The first step in your self-editing process is to find a way to see what you have written in a different way.
While writing, you are pouring your heart into those pages, so it is difficult for you to be objective about your work. This is why you need to take a break before you can start analyzing your work like a reader would. Although it sounds like a difficult thing to do, it’s quite easy in reality: just place the manuscript in a drawer for few days and try to forget about it. A week or even a month would be ideal, but give it at least two days if you can’t allow yourself to wait any longer. That break will allow the reality to set in and allow you to really see your creation.
If taking time off is something you cannot afford, then you should simply change the viewing format. You have probably been working on a computer, so print your work out or download it onto an eReader. This change will automatically give you a different perspective, so you will be able to see the problematic issues more clearly.
2. Look at the big picture first!
You probably understand editing as correcting the word choice, spell-checking and comma hunting, right? Well, here comes the surprise: you should actually focus on structural editing first. If you start by diving right into the detail work, you will end up with a bigger mess than the one you started correcting.
During the first stage of editing, you shouldn’t be worried about the misspelled words or wrong usage of commas. There is no point in polishing if the structure of your writing isn’t working as a whole. Take a deep look into the story and find the aspects that need to be restructured.
Start the self-editing by reading through your piece from an aerial view, and forget about the details – they will be fixed later. At this point, you should think about the narrative sequence, scene transitions, world development, character motivations, and pacing. Is the message of your book clearly coming through? Are the characters well developed? Are the scenes well fitted into the progression of the plot?
Approach the manuscript as a reader and trust your instinct. If you feel that something is not working, don’t be afraid to delete some sections, add new ones, or rewrite the ones that seem incomplete.
3. Forget about your habit words.
Every writer has this problem – habit words riddle manuscripts like a cancer! Before you forward your manuscript to your editor, make sure you don’t embarrass yourself by using your habit word in every single paragraph. Some of the most common habit words are “so”, “was”, “actually”, “literally”, “that”, and “had”. You may also have a problem repeating a phrase you like. There are enough words in the English vocabulary for you to replace your habit words, so make sure to use them to your advantage. However, you shouldn’t become pretentious about this and use words that no one understands.
4. The details create the rhythm.
Remember when we said that you will leave the details for later? Now is the time to focus on them and go through your manuscript line by line, until you are certain that it’s as perfect as your editing skills can make it. Simplify the convoluted phrases, condense wordy parts, fix rocky sentences, fix the grammar mistakes and make sure everything is smooth.
Writers have a hard time with this phase of editing because it is monotonous and repetitive, but it gives great results. This doesn’t mean that you are doing your editor’s job, because the editor will repeat this process all over again. However, if you send a mess to your editor, you won’t like the results. This way, you will make sure the writing sounds exactly how you want, so the editor will be in charge of finding the things that are confusing and make sure everything is clear. Two heads are always better than one, so you will make everyone happier (yourself, your editor, and your readers) if you pay attention to these self-editing tips and use them to your advantage.