Jan. 31: 10 Steps for Editing Your Own Writing

Mark Nichol / DailyWritingTips

You’ve done it. You’ve finally, triumphantly, typed out “The End.” Congratulations! Now comes the hard part: revision.

Revising is often more laborious than the writing process itself, but it’s essential — assuming, that is, that you want your writing to get published. Whether you write nonfiction, fiction, or poetry, you must evaluate your own writing and transform it from something that is complete but nothing more to something that is completely compelling. The process will involve multiple task-specific passes (not necessarily in the order presented) intended to achieve various goals. Let’s get you started:

1. Wait

Oops — hold on. Not yet. You deserve a break. Step away from the computer. Give yourself a few days to let your win sink in. Pursue another writing project, perhaps, or catch up on the rest of your life, before circling back and manipulating your manuscript.

One exception: If you have not written a synopsis or an abstract, do it now, before you revise your work. If, after reading the manuscript, you realize that you didn’t write out what you set out to write, decide whether the precis is precisely what you wanted, or whether the finished product is the real deal.

2. Hands Off

Read the entire manuscript without changing anything — or, at the most, make notes about major fixes or other key corrections for later attention. Shift from your writer mode to your reader setting. Remember, you tackled this writing project because nobody else would (or you thought you could do it better, or at least differently), so now it’s time to read it from cover page to conclusion (because you followed my advice from a previous post to not do that until you were finished, right?).

Some people recommend printing your piece out in hard copy because they claim that you notice the details more when you read your work in print, but that’s impractical for a 100,000-word novel, and some people are more comfortable with on-screen reading than others, so take or leave that advice.


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