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Editing – An Essential Chore?

Editing - An Essential ChoreAre you one of those fortunate people who can write perfectly?  What comes off the end of your pen, or from your deft touch on the keyboard, produces prose or poetry that is so good that there can be no possible change that would improve it.

If you are one of these people then you are extremely lucky and most probably in a minority of one.  For most of us, however, our initial writing offerings will not be classed as perfection and we have to go through a further stage to improve this first version of

the words, commonly known as editing.

I believe that one of the misconceptions about editing amongst some people is that it is a final check for grammar and spelling, but it should much more than that.  Yes, there does need to be a stage when we review spelling and grammar, our sentence structure, etc., but we should also examine our writing with a cruelly critical eye.

Fortunately there is much help at hand.  Good books on creative writing will include a section on “editing” and there is much advice online.  For example, google “revision of writing strategies” and see what you can find.  Quite a lot of the entries will be about academic writing, but don’t necessarily discount the academic view as much can be learned from this.  For instance, the University of Minnesota in its article on “Editing and Proofreading Strategies” suggests a number of tips including:

  • “Leave yourself plenty of time for all steps of the writing process, including editing”
  • “Get acquainted with your resources” – you don’t need to remember every aspect of grammar, for example, but make sure you have a reference point you can access; and
  • “Know your weaknesses” – keep a list of the common mistakes you make.

You will find advice for creative writing online too.  I came across some useful “Revision Tips” such as:

  • “Can you read it out loud without stumbling?”
  • “Does every word and action count?”
  • “Is the series of events logical”.

Spending time to edit, review and revise your work, will be time well spent.

What is your approach to editing? Do you have any editing tips for us?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

About Tony At The Word...

In addition to my own reading and writing activities, I am passionate about promoting both.

I hope that through “The Word Runs Through It” we can encourage reading and writing and a connection between people.

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  • Mark May 25, 2013, 1:10 pm

    It’s near impossible to edit your own work well. If it was that easy to spot problems why would you have made them?
    It’s harder yet to identify structural and plot problems or that eg you can’t write women’s dialogue: we all have ego. That’s why an immensely useful approach is if you can ditch your authorial pride and from an early stage recruit someone who can act as your general and copy editor. It can help you identify your weaknesses and ideally to improve and stop them from being your weaknesses. Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone who fits the bill and is willing but if you do then do it.
    Good luck y’all.

    • Tony at the Word July 8, 2013, 2:48 pm

      Mark makes some very interesting and valid points and if we can find a critical friend it’s a great asset. Perhaps it ought to be critical friends though? He uses the example of women’s dialogue, but what about a child’s viewpoint, a older person’s thoughts or dialogue, or a rich and poor persons’ behaviour? I have a number of critical friends through the writing group I attend, of both sexes, young and old, etc., but it’s not everyone who can get a physical group. This is why we hope our virtual writers group will be able to provide support to aspiring writers.