Search the web-wide world of authorial advice on editing and you’ll find an overwhelming consensus: Every writer, no matter how experienced, needs an editor. Maybe three or four.
So, while earnestly searching for volunteer editors, be number one.
As far as self-editing, there are two more undeniable consistencies in all the advice out there: Step One, start with reading aloud. While putting Step One into practice, BE OBJECTIVE. You are no longer the author, but the first audience member, and you’re wearing Editor Pants now.
Another consistency in the advice given most often by seasoned writers: Learn to take constructive criticism. The best way to practice this is to be tough on yourself first. Not mean. Tough.
I challenge you all today to pick up a piece of recent writing. Whether it’s your first draft, or third, read page one aloud. Read it aloud again with a pen in hand. Underline the words (or sentences) that you recognize as flat, or that blatantly interrupt the flow intended. Correct misspellings, if there are any. Strike through repetitive words. Next, (with a different color ink if you like) circle words that have at least two vibrant synonyms — you can test these later to see if they have a noticeably positive effect.
How much is page one marked up?
It’s fair to say that every piece of writing can probably stand some improvement. Are you willing to move on to page two? Do you recognize problematic areas but aren’t sure how to proceed? Want some help?
Besides sharing my writing publicly, the most daunting task I have ever faced is self-editing. After the task is done, though, I feel a great deal more confident about passing it along to another writer for content editing. Still, there have been days (five days ago, for instance) the goofiest errors slip right by. This sort of thing tends to happen a lot on my public blog posts! (Because I forget to read aloud? Could be.)
I won’t go on and on about my own writing mishaps, promise. What I will do is invite you all to join me as I begin an in depth study of editing advice from writers all around the web. In next week’s Tuesday Chatter, I will share some informative articles and offer up another editing exercise (or two). Let’s learn together, shall we?