Writing is re-writing – however much of a cliche that must be. Whether you’re writing fiction, non fiction or even a blog post, your ability to edit effectively can make the difference between a decent piece of work and a unreadable hotch-potch.
I’ve written and edited online content for eight years. I love editing which is good since it makes up a lot of what I do. It’s the same for my personal writing – give me re-writes over first drafts any day. So here’s some advice from an editor on editing:
1. Read out loud
Do I do this at work? Yes I do. I mumble along to myself all the time. My desk mates don’t mention it, I think they’re used to it by now. But you may prefer to have a quiet space and time to do this. Not only will it highlight typos you may have subconsciously overlooked, it will also show how you writing flows. By reading out loud you’ll hear how natural the dialogue sounds, the impact of your pacing and depth of your description. And yes you should definitely do the voices!
2. Get a second pair of eyes
Not literally! That kind of thing will get you locked up. Everything we edit at work is reviewed, not once, but twice before it goes live. You don’t. necessarily need to go that far but getting one other person to read your work and offer feedback is a good idea.
Some people use Beta readers, people recruited specifically to read your work and give you feedback. Time is usually given for free, but in a reciprocal fashion, so be prepared to become someone else’s Beta reader in exchange.
Alternatively, if you have a friend or family member who you trust to give you an honest opinion, and are prepared to help, this could be an option too. But make sure you’re clear about timings and exactly what you need from them.
3. Use the tools
At work we have to get clear articles out on a tight timescales. So we use whatever tools we have available to help us out. The obvious ones are things like spell check, (but an amazing number of people do seem to overlook even this). There are a bunch of other tools out there, often free. I could create a whole other blog post about them. We use the Hemr App and Readable amoung others. There are ones to help you keep track of complicated plotlines, ones to help you plan your time, ones to make notes to come back to later. Find your tools and tinker.
4. Take a break
Once the messy first draft is done, take a break. With the tight deadlines we have at work, this can often just be long enough get a coffee, but it’s stil enough. Even a quick break resets your mind ready to edit. How long you take is up to you, but for a long work, take a week at least. Do something else, write something else, then come back to it. And once you’ve done your first edit, take another break before the second. Which brings us to number five…
5. Lather, rinse, repeat
How many times do you edit? Personally I do three. The first, the hardest, to really whip things into shape, the second to flesh out character and description and the third, to fix the typos, the formatting, all the boring stuff. The only advice I can give is to edit at least once.
Editing – do you love or hate it? What are your tips and tricks?