If there’s one thing I like, one thing I really get a buzz from about writing, it’s editing. That’s not to say I don’t find it painfully hard at times, But ‘smithing’ my text until I have the perfect sentence or paragraph or scene is just incredibly satisfying.
So, here are my top 5 tips to wordsmith your writing:
- Stop, drop and…do something else – after you’ve put the final full stop on your first draft and hit save (or closed the notebook because you might be old school), put it to one side. Do something else. Bathe the dog. Go fishing. Learn to knit. Personally I leave off writing for a day or two, then focus on something new. It could be a short story, a few blog posts, or even planning a new book. Anything really to get my mind out of the world I’ve been inhabiting for the past few months (or years). I’d suggest giving it at least a couple of weeks before you dive back in and read everything with gloriously fresh eyes.
- E-nun-ciate – Read your work aloud. This is honestly one of the best ways to see how your story flows. You can really tell if your descriptions have an impact, if your conversations sound realistic and if your characters are, well, characters. Note – do this alone as a punch in the face for giggling often offends.
- Like Edward Scissorhands, just take a little off the top – I love to chop my writing down. When I do this for my day job writing for websites, this is fine because people scan rather than read. But when it comes to prose, I sometimes overdo it. Prune rather than hack. Kill your darlings, omit unnecessary words but retain the mise-en-scene of your story or your writing will have all the colour of flat pack instructions.
- Three times a charm – I think three edits are enough for a book, though a shorter work won’t necessarily need as many. The first edit really nails down your story and characters, the second molds the sights, the sounds and the smells and the third tidies up any loose ends and kills any last spelling and grammar imps dead.
- Phone a friend – a good, reliable, honest friend. Or relative. They need to be aware of what you do and prepared to put in the effort to both read and critique your words. I would suggest you do this sometime between the first and second edit. Your story won’t be perfect and nor will it be too hard to chop. With any luck, a lot of what they pick up on will be things you already have rolling around in your head. With even more luck, they’ll pick up on stuff that isn’t.
Nothing earth shattering there but maybe something in the list will help you out. And if you have anything that you’ve found to be particularly useful when you edit your work, please add a comment!