Ahh….editing. For many writers, editing is a big challenge, one that is often accompanied by profuse sweating and anxiety. I, like many other writers, find it much easier to write than to edit. However, if you’re serious about your work and you don’t have an unlimited budget for a professional editor for each manuscript, you’ll need to pick up some trusted revising skills.
Here are some tricks that have helped me:
1. Walk away!
Believe me, I’ve been stumped in my writing many a time. I have literally bumped my head against the computer screen because I couldn’t find the right word or the best ending. But it’s remarkable what can happen when you simply walk away and allow the manuscript to breathe for a while. When you come back to it, I guarantee you’ll see your manuscript through fresh eyes, and you’ll pick up on things you didn’t see before. Suddenly, you have new inspiration.
2. Read it out loud!
This one seems obvious, but I admit I never used to do this. I would just read my book in my head, without ever listening to how the words rolled off the page. But that’s not giving it a fair trial. You won’t know how your manuscript sounds to others until you read the manuscript out loud yourself. You’ll have a clearer view of what works and what doesn’t.
3. Trim the excess!
Okay, this is admittedly a hard one because we grow attached to our writing. It’s hard to let go of precious paragraphs and chapters that took us to long to formulate. But when you’ve got your editing cap on, you need to be ruthless. You need to cut out any extraneous writing like exposition, long drawn-out descriptions and parts that doesn’t advance the plot. Sometimes editing means completely re-writing certain parts, or even the whole thing.
4. Watch your words!
In my first chapter book, I realized I used the verb “said” over 200 times! I just kept using it anytime a character said something, and it got extremely monotonous. So I decided to make a list of 50 synonyms for the verb “say” to get some variety. There are many other tricks writers use as well, because we all tend to overuse or misuse certain words without being conscious of it. Check out the links before for some great tips:
5. Form a critique group!
I joined a critique group this year and it’s literally changing my life. Let‘s face it, there’s only so much editing you can do on your own. At a certain point, it’s helpful to have an outside eye. So why not invite a select group of professional writers take a look at your work and offer constructive feedback? The best part is that it’s all free! And you may also develop some new and unexpected friendships along the way. You can join a critique group through SCBWI or CANSCAIP, or through other writing organizations.
Though the editing phase has its challenges, the most important skill to develop is PATIENCE. Good writing takes time to develop, and years to master. Keep learning and evolving, but also try to enjoy the process. Remember that writing can be fun!