Monday, November 19, 2007

Be Your Own Best Editor

I spend a lot of my time editing other people’s articles and books. However, I happen to think I work as a pretty decent editor for myself as well. However, most people don’t find it so easy to edit their own work. Here are a few tricks to help you be your own best editor as well.

The first trick involves disassociating yourself from your own writing. In other words, unattach yourself from your own words. Pretend they aren’t yours but those of some strange writer whom you’ve never met. Don’t look at your sentences or paragraphs as personal creations but as impersonal prose that must be cleaned up, polished, shortened, tightened, made more active, etc.

If you have a difficult time accomplishing this, try my second trick: Put your writing project away for as long as possible. Sometimes I have only a few hours or a day before I have to begin editing it. Other time I can close the document and not reopen it on my computer for a week or more. The longer you wait to reread your words, the less attached you will feel about them. Sometimes I’ve come back a few weeks later and read what I wrote and wondered if I was even the one who wrote the piece!

Next, edit the first time through looking for as many errors or things to improve upon as you can– grammar, passive sentences, content issues, structure, etc. With each consecutive editing, pick one issue to focus upon. For example, the next time you edit the piece, read for transitions. The next time, check for passive sentences, then for tense issues. This will help you avoid missing a particular problem in one or two areas of your piece.

My best editing tool comes into play when I need to cut words to meet a word count, which, as I’ve said, I must do quite often. Even if you haven’t exceeded a word count, go through your manuscript as if you need to cut at least 300 words or more. Look at every sentence to see how you can reduce the number of words you have used and make every word work to its utmost capacity.

Then, if you can, put the piece away for another day or two. Read it one last time, this time, aloud. This will help you catch anything you might have missed. If you don’t have time for all of these steps, use as many as possible, and then use this one.

Blogger's Note: I'll be in the air traveling tomorrow all day and will try to post a blog at some point, if possible. If I don't get to a spot where it's possible to post, look for a new blog on Wednesday. There will be no blog on Thanksgiving;I'm off for the holiday. And, I'm traveling again on Friday, but I'll try to post something when I return home. Please bear with my sporadic blogging during this holiday week. Happy Thanksgiving.

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