I often struggle to answer the basic question,“What do you do?” Sometimes I say, “Writer.” But I should really say, “Editor.” The amount of time spent on actually editing my writing hugely outweighs the time spent writing it.
Editing can be painful and much less gratifying than the feeling of those initial typed words flying onto the page. Writing is like throwing paint onto a wall, freeing and fun. Editing is making something useful out of it. While not instantly rewarding, the end result of careful and thoughtful editing always pays off.
Here are 4 tips to make your writing infinitely stronger:
Step away. Allow time between that last draft and your next edit. If your deadline allows, I recommend 24 hours. If not, even an hour can help give you the distance needed to look on the piece with fresh eyes and your red pen.
Read it out loud. Reading your own writing aloud checks for duplicative words, unnecessary adjectives, or clumsy sentence structure. As writers, we strive for not only original ideas, but the cadence and delivery of the best poets. This does not come easily. Reading your work out loud for flow and sound will catch many of the problems your eyes will skip right over.
Edit fearlessly. You are not your writing, so don’t hold your words too dear. When we think our work is too precious to change, we limit ourselves. There’s always room for improvement in all areas of our life, including our writing.
Get to the point. First drafts are a great way to write out all the backstory needed to get to the real story. A good edit of a draft will remove unnecessary sentences or even full paragraphs. Constantly ask yourself, is this necessary? For expository writing, am I moving my point forward? For creative writing, does this drive my story forward? If not, get rid of it. Your delete key can be your best editing tool.
Want more great tips? Join me for a writing workshop Wednesday, August 10th from 2-3pm at Carpe Librum Chicago (4047 N. Milwaukee). All levels welcome. Email me to RSVP!