Writing Advice: Art of Editing

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Let’s face it, folks. Editing is one of the hardest things about writing. Sure, it can be tough to sit in front of a blank page and get started, but I think it’s even tougher to sit in front of a completed piece with red pen — metaphorical or not — in hand. When faced with a piece that you have deemed finished, it can be difficult to decide where to cut and where to pare down. Even more difficult, in my opinion, is taking that step back and surveying your piece as a whole to see what is missing and what needs to be addressed as you pursue the editing process.

Yes, editing is a thorny practice. Luckily, there are a lot of great tips out there for you. For instance, there is this Lifehacker post that contains five great tips for editing your own work. Their big, main points include printing out the piece you want to edit, putting distance between you and the completed piece, reading the piece aloud, pretending to be in the piece’s intended audience as you look at it, and being ruthless with what you’ve created. These are all fantastic tips and I think they’ve really hit on the five main tenets to remember when editing your own writing.

My personal favorite on this list, which is a piece of advice that I swear by for my own work, is reading your work aloud. Quoting from the post:

“…actually listening to your written syntax is one of the best ways you can catch areas with jangling phrasing. Read your work out loud and change anything that doesn’t make sense or that you stumble over.”

When reading something silently, it’s easy for your eyes to simply gloss over possible errors or clunky sounding phrases. When you’re reading it out loud, for some reason that forces your brain to work harder at deciphering the words you’ve put down. This will immediately ferret out anything that doesn’t sound quite right.

Check out Lifehacker’s post about tips for editing your own work, and happy editing!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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3 thoughts on “Writing Advice: Art of Editing

  1. Paula Cappa April 23, 2013 / 10:16 am

    While I think these suggestions are really good for all writers to do in their finishing stages, I’m not in favor of writers doing their own editing. So, I’ll politely offerthe opposite view here for a minute. I am a copy editor by occupation. I am a writer, mostly fiction, and I write a blog about classic short stories. So, I write creatively every day. I edit every day. I still hire a content editor, a line editor, and a proofreader for my novels. Why three editors? Because no matter how many times or what strategies I use to edit/proof my own work (and I’ve used all the tactics named), I still miss things. As writers, we are too close and too involved to see or hear all the errors or even the poorly structured in our own work. So, when I give my MS to an editor, it’s pretty clean but it’s not completely free of errors. My goal as a self-published author is to produce the most perfect and professional quality product I can. In professional publishing (at least in the old days), for a book you had three editors on the MS before going to print. For me, I wouldn’t dream of producing my work out there without it going through the editorial process. But as a writer, yes, use all the strategies necessary to get your MS as clean as you can. Still, consider the advantages of a professional edit, especially if you are a self-published author.

    • Editor April 23, 2013 / 8:28 pm

      I completely agree with you. An outside pair of eyes is absolutely essential before putting your work out there. The kind of editing that we often talk about here is just a way for authors to polish up their manuscript before passing it off to someone who will be more objective. Because yeah, I know that the one pass that I give my writing is not going to make it perfect. Not by a long shot! All good points — thanks for the comment!

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