There’s a reason even the best authors have editors. That’s because it’s nearly impossible to edit your own writing with the fresh perspective an outside reader provides. We often read our writing in the way it was intended to be written—instead of as it actually sits on the page.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make editing your own work easier and more productive. This is especially helpful if you don’t have anyone available to edit for you.
The first and best thing you should do is put your writing down and leave it alone. Wait as long as you can. If you only have overnight, give it that, but really you need to leave your writing be for a couple days or weeks, minimum. The trick here is to forget the state of mind you were in when you wrote it. Forget what you intended to say. You can think about your story or continue onward if you’re still writing it, but don’t turn back and try to edit it. Not just yet.
The longer you let your words settle, the better you’ll be able to edit them.
This same principle applies to other fields as well. When I’m working on a design project, I often find myself becoming “screen blind” after too long spent on one project. But if I step away and take a break, I’m able to refresh both my mind and my perspective.
The second method of self-editing can be accomplished without wait.
Look at your writing in a different medium.
If you wrote on a computer, print it out. If you penned it out, type it in. Even switching from a tablet screen to a computer monitor can help. The idea with this method is to separate your words from the context you wrote them in.
The way that works best for me is to see a typed, hard-copy version. I’ll then go through with a highlighter and color any sentences, words, or phrases that stick-out to me. Is something uncomfortable to read? Did I trip over that word? Think I meant to say something else there? Highlight it.
The reason I always start by highlighting is this: Your first impression is the best tool, but also the most fleeting.
If you allow yourself to get lost in detail, you risk losing perspective. It’s crucial to work fast when you begin editing. Speed allows you to continue seeing your writing with fresh eyes. Only after the initial read-through and highlighting is complete, then it’s time to pull out the fine-tooth comb. Then you no longer have to worry about getting lost in details. That’s the beauty of highlighting everything that needs work—you will always know exactly where to focus.
Have a great day, and good luck with all your writing endeavors!
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