Saturday, February 27, 2010
My 5 Best tips for Editing Your Own Work
I have a confession; I have inordinate trouble editing my own work. For anything longer then a blog post or short article, I tend to spend more time rewriting and proofing then I do actually writing the blasted thing. Proof of this can easily be obtained by scanning through the archives of this blog... But I'm getting better. I think an increased emphasis on applying and writing for other sources helps me focus. Additionally, I have learned a few tricks. Here are the best five:
1. Take your Time: In the past when I finished a draft I'd be so excited and eager I would want to rush out and submit! Instead, I have learned to slow down, take my time. Wait. Don't think about the piece. Go do something else. Then, read it again. Fresh eyes make all the difference.
2. Read out Loud: I have a tendency to read what I thought I wrote, instead of reading what I wrote. Verbalizing alleviates this problem somewhat.
3. Read it backwards: !skroW lleW
4. Trick/Bribe/Beg/Threaten someone else to help you edit: You should do all of that except the threatening thing. I'm still looking for a local writing partner who I can trade work and edits with; but in the meantime I'll make my family and friends dread emails with attachments in them =D I would also like to take this opportunity to publicaly state that my wife has the patience of a Saint (*Editor's note: I sure do...).
5. Murder your darlings/Cut until it bleeds: I, like most writers I think, have certain turns of phrase that I find particularly clever; certain paragraphs that make me puff out my chest a little in silly pride. More often then not, it is these bloated bits of flabby wordplay that are most in need of serious cutting. Writing is not about being clever (for me at least), it is about effectively communicating. The writing I am trying create would, ideally, make my readers almost forget they are reading; it would catch them up so completely in the ideas and story and imagery that they'd stop paying attention the where I'm leading them and just follow. Likewise, if there is something that could be cut out of a piece then it more often then not it should be cut. This isn't a hard and fast rule, and requires a fair degree of the 'judgment call'. 'Perfection is not achieved when there is nothing left to add, but rather when there is nothing left to take away'; I believe that quote is almost always true, and dare any writer to put it to use.