Edit Your Writing to Prepare for the Editor
The most important thing you can do is write the project all the way to the end. Once you are finished with the writing, the hard word begins. Editing can be more of a challenge than writing – but you should never start editing until you have finished writing.
Line upon line and precept upon precept – in other words, write your heart out and then edit the wrinkles out of what you wrote.
This editing – or you may want to call it a rewrite if it makes you feel better or if your editing skills are like mine (where you have to consult your nine year old to be sure you are spelling the words correctly) – is only the second step in the process. There are more steps that will lead you down the path to the best manuscript you can put together.
For now, the focus is on self-editing.
The Top Ten Ways to Self-Edit Your Writing
1. Print out the manuscript. Reading something in print instead of on the screen will translate to your mind in a different way. Arm yourself with a red pen or pencil and get to work.
2. Read the manuscript out loud. Hearing the words will let you feel the flow and also make some mistakes stand out.
3. Have someone else read the manuscript aloud. This will let you focus on hearing the words.
4. Read it backwards. Although this works best for shorter manuscripts but can be the best way to catch words that are misspelled.
5. Hand write the first draft. When you transpose the words to the computer then you will get your first chance at editing.
6. Invest in software that will run grammar and spelling checks. Even the basic programs can help with the big problems and will also give you a chance to check for any words or phrases that may have been over-used.
7. Set it aside. Walk away from the work for a few days or a few weeks. Let the story get a little out of your head so that you can come back at it with a clear view.
8. Change the formatting and print it out again. Change the font and the line spacing. This will help you see the words with a new perspective.
9. Take it in sections. Go at your editing in little bits – a chapter or a page at a time – instead of trying to do it all at once. A little bit will let you focus on each section with more detail.
10. Know your crutch words and cut them or change them when possible (confession time: my characters smile a LOT so I try to go back through an change the body language to cut back on the use of the word without cutting out the action).
Once you go through these steps, you are ready for the next investment of alpha readers – those readers that you trust with your unfinished manuscript (because it is unfinished until it has been polished by the professional editors). These alpha readers can help you find additional mistakes in grammar or spelling, but are most valued for their help in the story.
Producing a strong manuscript begins with the words, but writing the story is only the beginning of the journey.