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Insight From An Editor: Tips For Self-Editing

Insight From An Editor: Tips For Self-Editing

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.

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Editing

    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.

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    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?

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    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.

    self-editing

      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.

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      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.

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      Last Updated on March 13, 2019

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

      Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

      You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

      Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

      1. Work on the small tasks.

      When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

      Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

      2. Take a break from your work desk.

      Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

      Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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      3. Upgrade yourself

      Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

      The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

      4. Talk to a friend.

      Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

      Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

      5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

      If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

      Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

      Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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      6. Paint a vision to work towards.

      If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

      Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

      Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

      7. Read a book (or blog).

      The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

      Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

      Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

      8. Have a quick nap.

      If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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      9. Remember why you are doing this.

      Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

      What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

      10. Find some competition.

      Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

      Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

      11. Go exercise.

      Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

      Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

      As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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      Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

      12. Take a good break.

      Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

      Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

      Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

      Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

      More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

      Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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