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As a writer, self-editing is an essential part of the creative process, albeit a daunting one. Spotting errors and inconsistencies in our own work can be a right ol’ challenge. It’s the all-important stage where we transform our drafts towards a piece that’s ready for others to consume and enjoy. Within this post, we’ll explore some ways to approach self-editing. Ideally, you’d look to build a self-editing checklist so that you don’t accidentally overlook any areas; how we’d edit for tone, voice and punctuation, differs from how we’d edit for consistencies, formatting, and structure, for example.
Take a Break and Return with Fresh Eyes
Editing our work immediately after writing it can make it difficult to spot errors, as we’re often still too close to the material. Instead, take a break, ideally for a day or two, before diving into the editing process. This distance allows us to approach our writing with fresh eyes, providing a new perspective and making it easier to spot inconsistencies, holes, and areas that need improvement.
Ensure Consistency in Voice and Tense
As we edit, we need to pay attention to the consistency of our narrative voice and tense. Switching between first and third person, or past and present tense, can be confusing for the reader and interrupt the overall flow of our work. There’s a carefulness and meticulousness that’s needed to maintain consistency throughout.
Eliminate Unnecessary Words and Phrases
I’m a waffler so I have had to learn to be ruthless when it comes to cutting unnecessary words and phrases from my writing. For every 3,000 words I write, I’m left with 1,000 after this step – it’s brutal!
We’re looking for redundancies, cliches, tangents, and overly descriptive passages that don’t contribute to the overarching body of work. By trimming the excess gumph, our writing becomes more concise, engaging, and effective.
Read Your Work Aloud
Reading our work aloud can help us identify awkward phrasing, run-on sentences, and other issues that might have gone unnoticed during writing and silent reading. When we hear our words spoken, we naturally notice the rhythm and flow of what we’ve written. If something sounds a bit off, it’s an indication that we need to rework that bit of text. Reading aloud is also an excellent way to check for proper punctuation and ensure our dialogue sounds natural. This step is super-useful when we have plans to turn our work into an audio format, it pre-empts any turn of phrases or clunky bits of text that we’d stumble over in the recording studio.How To Self-Edit Your Work As A Writer Click To Tweet
If we’ve written in Word, we can also use their text-to-speech function called Speak to help us listen out for any areas of improvement – it can be found in the Review tab where you then need to click on Read Aloud.
Utilise Online Editing Tools
To ensure our writing is free of grammatical and punctuation errors, consider using tools such as Grammarly. This powerhouse of an online editing tool analyses text and offers real-time suggestions for improvement. It detects spelling mistakes, and incorrect punctuation, and even suggests better word choices.
In conjunction with Grammarly, I like to layer up with Hemingway. Named after the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, the Hemingway Editor is an online tool that focuses on simplicity and readability. It highlights lengthy, complex sentences, passive voice, and unnecessary adverbs, prompting the writer to revise them for greater clarity. By following Hemingway’s suggestions, we can ensure our writing is easy to understand and, perhaps most importantly, more enjoyable for our readers.
Self-Edit in Multiple Passes
Trying to address every aspect of our writing in a single editing pass-through can be overwhelming and exhausting. Instead, consider editing in multiple passes, focusing on differing specific elements each time. For example, during the first round, we might concentrate on tone and structure, while in subsequent passes, we might work on character development, dialogue, and that final polish.
Seek Feedback from Trusted Readers
Constructive feedback might come by way of a literary agent or developmental editor for a manuscript. It could come from beta readers, a writing group, or an editorial peer. Sharing our work in this way can provide valuable insights, identify areas that need improvement, and offer suggestions for revision. Keep in mind that we don’t have to accept all feedback, but instead, give it careful consideration and use it to make informed decisions about any edits we might make.
Self-editing is an essential skill for any writer to hone. That first draft rarely resembles what is subsequently published and enjoyed. The art of editing is one which can rattle our ego but it’s also one which transforms our drafts into well-crafted, well-considered, publishable pieces.
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