Updated: Jun 3
For me, the editing process is more enjoyable than the writing process itself…which is a little ironic, given I’ve written several blogs about writing, but none about editing (until now). Of course, I love to write! However, I find few things more satisfying than sitting down with a completed draft of a story you’ve nurtured for days, months, or years and being able to look at it again from a totally different perspective--the editor’s perspective.
Before I go through the editing steps I take after writing a story, here’s my biggest piece of editorial advice: do not go back and edit your story while you are still writing it!
Is this advice a bit hypocritical coming from me? Yes.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll immediately resort to editing your story if you get a case of writer’s block halfway through writing it, or you’ll obsess over making your very first paragraph the most polished, attention-grabbing paragraph there is before you even finish the rest of the story, or you’ll fixate on a sentence that doesn’t sound quite right and refuse to continue writing until that sentence is perfect, or…
You know, that process of digging a deeper writer’s-block grave for yourself.
I’m getting better at forcing myself to not look back as I’m writing something. Truth is, you’ll only make things harder for yourself as a writer if you start revising your story before you finish it. It’s best to just let the words flow onto the Word document until you’re done, regardless of whether it sounds good enough or makes enough sense, because editing prematurely forces your story to be something before it even becomes something. Writers almost never know how their own story is going to end, so there’s no use in editing it as if it already has an ending. A too-early revision also distracts you from the task at hand and gives you an excuse to not finish the story.
Okay, here are some more editing tips:
Print out your draft and handwrite your edits on the pages. This will keep your mind fresh after staring at a computer screen for so long. It also helps to physically hold the pages in your hand and scribble on them with your favorite pen. I don’t know the science behind this, so just trust me.
Start from scratch when you write your next draft instead of making the edits on the original draft. I had a professor recommend I do this, and it was a very daunting task, but it helped me not feel so claustrophobic in between my lines. It’s easier to write something new when you have a blank page to work with rather than forcing your edits onto the space you’ve already taken up with your original draft.
Do your small edits before your big edits. For instance, do a round of editing in which you only edit for grammar and structure. Then, take on bigger edits such for your overall story and its characters, content, and possible plot holes. That way, you won’t feel too overwhelmed as you’re editing.
Peer edit. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking to share your work with someone else, I know, but it helps to send it to someone you trust so you can get a new perspective on your work. It helps to share your story with fellow writer friends that understand all the ins and outs of writings. Don’t share your work with too many outsiders, though, as this may put too much pressure on your story.
Most importantly, don’t sweat the process. Some of these techniques might work for you, and that’s okay. As long as you edit thoroughly, intentionally, and separately from your writing process, you’re off to a good start!