Learn how to edit your own work, and really make your writing shine.
So you’ve written a great piece of fiction, be it short story, novella, or novel, and you’re stumped on what to do next. Beginning writers will take the finished product and immediately send it out to editors, agents and publishers in hopes of becoming the next great American Author. Experienced writers know there’s a lot more work to be done, a dreaded word that bites the tongue and send a shiver down their spine:
Editing: the process of cleaning up a written work. Essentially, editing allows writers to go back and fix up their fiction using a variety of techniques focusing on English style usage, grammar, plot, characters, descriptions, and so forth. It’s the finishing polish on piece of finely crafted furniture. The tinkering of the ingredients of a recipe so it tastes perfect.
Editing is not a fun process, but it is essential in fixing up things. Here are some introductory tips on where to start when you first begin the editing process:
1. Print out your work. Looking at the writing on a piece of paper makes it easy to write in the margins, make notes, cross out useless information, or underline important moments that need be looked at with a more careful eye. This technique also makes it easier to look at your own work with more scrutiny and viewing the story from the eyes of an outsider.
2. Establish a comfortable system. Take a look at this example and take special note of the different techniques that keep springing up. The underlined spots are indications where entire sentences don’t work and need to be re-worded. There are many notes in the margin regarding the text. Dialogue is changed in-between the lines.
3. Double-space every story! This makes it easier to write between the lines. With plenty of room to make changes, there are no excuses for leaving in anything that doesn’t work. Leaving anything in during this process with the intent of changing it later can be dangerous—writers, after all, have a tendency to forget, which is why we write things down so often.
4. Don’t be afraid to show the first draft to other writers. Avoid friends and family who may omit suggestions in order to prevent any hurt feelings. Good writers know how difficult the editing process can be, and are more often than not willing to offer suggestions that are aimed with only the purpose of improving your writing. Letting others look at the writing also carries the “Fresh Perspective” benefit. As the creator of the work, you’re likely to miss some obvious areas of improvement that another writer can find. As a fair trade, offer to look at another writer’s fiction as well—this can be advantageous in allowing both writers to learn from each other’s mistakes.
This is a good start, and should provide a roadmap for completing a competent second draft. Editing is never an easy process, and it’s always a pain. But sticking with it and establishing a strenuous routine can generate powerful results for any writer.