One thing that we, as writers, need to ensure we can control is our urgency to submit before our writing is ready. Yes, we all know the excitement of finishing something that we have been working on for a long time, especially if we have always had the intention of submitting it somewhere or trying to get it published. But the reality is that, at this point in the writing process, the piece is far from complete. Now come the tedious stages of editing.
We have discussed two key points about editing so far this month. The first post delved into a few of the reasons why editing is so important; the second looked at the key things you should look for when you edit. Today, we are going to tackle the subject of how you can edit your writing.
I will not return to the debate over whether you should. There are things that we can all do to ensure that our editing is as accurate as possible. Some of these should be obvious. For instance, many of you who have edited before will no doubt be aware that it can be hard to edit on a computer screen. Our brains tend to skip spelling mistakes and read the words as we think they should be read. If you have to edit on a screen, then enlarge the writing, and change the colour and style of the font until it is easy to read, so that you’re not looking at the same thing for hours on end. Wherever possible, however, print out what you’re going to edit and do it by hand at least once. As for how many times you should edit – well, as many as you feel necessary, but for longer or more important pieces I would stress a minimum of three times, and more if you continue to find things to correct.
Now that you have your pen and paper, you need to focus yourself totally on what you’re editing. Try to use a different coloured pen for each type of error, e.g. spelling, repetition, paragraph breaks, and so on. This will allow you to more easily identify the type of problem when you later come to correct it. It is unwise to correct each problem on the final copy as you spot it, so focus entirely on the editing and do your corrections later. If this becomes too much for you, then work on one type of error at a time: look for spelling mistakes first, then go back to the beginning and check your punctuation, and so on. It may take more time this way, but it will be worth it!
Finally, remember that you are editing, not looking to change the plot in any way. If there are plot holes or problems with your piece, then return to the writing stage and start editing from the beginning only when you’re happy that the issues have been resolved. Writing and editing are two entirely different parts of the process, so make sure that you don’t get them confused.
This month’s theme is EDITING. If you have written something that you would like me to share on this blog on the theme of editing, then please post a link in the comments or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject: Editing.