Self Editing

Posted by on May 7, 2014 in Blog | Comments Off on Self Editing

Self Editing

What separates mediocre writers from good ones?

Clearly it is their ability to come up with fresh ideas, spot gaps in chapters, delete content that does not fit, and flesh-out incidents that will entice the reader to pay attention and continue reading. Another key characteristic is the quality of their editing. Most writers rely on an appointed editor to check their work for clumsy or ambiguous phrasing, typos and inconsistencies, but if you are working on your first manuscript, feature article, or publishing posts to a blog, you may not have the time to outsource your work for proofreading.

However, some writers find it difficult to edit their own work; they argue that they would not have written in the way they have if it wasn’t their intention in the first place. Consequently, many end up skipping editing altogether because they simply don’t recognize any errors or purely because they find the process objectionable. Then again, there are writers who demand perfection and spend hours trying to get a paragraph just right. It is acceptable to want to write perfectly the first time, to side step editing, but self editing as you write is often a mistake many emerging writers make. Ray Bradbury, American fantasy, science fiction, horror and mystery fiction writer (1920 – 2012) believed that when it comes to first drafts, we should just write [and not pay attention to grammar, typos and viewpoint]. He said, “The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth dead-falling and tiger-trapping.” In short, what he meant was that we should write with gusto; get it down fast, even if it doesn’t quite make sense at this stage – you can always patch up sentences during the revision [editing] phase.

It’s good advice; it’s fine to correct a typo, or restart a sentence while creating the first draft – but avoid going back to delete whole sentences or re-write paragraphs. Once the article or book manuscript is complete, put it aside for a while before you re-read it to check the content for errors. You will approach the work in a more objective manner and will notice problems that didn’t stand out before, such as too many short/long paragraphs, glaring typos, moving chunks of material to facilitate the flow of your piece, adding missing information, and cutting repetitive copy or unnecessary adjectives to reduce word count. Read your work out loud; if you need to read a sentence more than once to understand it, change it.

Run your work through a spell-checker, but don’t blindly follow every suggestion. Finally, print out your work. Give it a quick read-through. It is important to arrive at a stage where you feel thoroughly confident about your work. The best writing sounds fluent, like you’re speaking.

Contact Theresa ( for editing services. Order our Editing & Proofreading Tutorial (e-book).


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