9 Tips for Surviving the Editing Process

Editing, even for the experienced writer, can make you hate everything. Here are some ways to get through it.

Editing it can fill even the most hardened writer with dread. Some people procrastinate; others (gasp) skip it altogether. But editing is actually a crucial part of writing, and the more you edit--to a point--the stronger your work becomes.

The tips below will help you to hone and refine your editing process, and give you some ways to restart when you feel stuck.

Tip #1: Plan It Out.

First of all, you need to think about what you want your writing to be, and how that might affect your approach to editing it. What's the form? The style? The message? It's hardly riveting, but it is necessary. If you know the practical things before you start editing then the process will be much easier. 

Just as the methods of writing change from genre to genre, the way we edit changes too. It's easier to keep track of the plot of a poem than that of a book: for longer, more complex pieces of writing it will be helpful to keep a plan to ensure continuity.

Tip #2: Take Your Time.

If you can, take a break from your writing before you start editing it. This will help you to look at it with a critical, impartial eye and give your brain some time to reboot. You don't need to leave it for months, just long enough that you can read your work with an editing mindset rather than a creative one.

If you have any stylistic or creative influences, this might be a good time to re-read them to get some ideas.

Tip #3: Phone a Friend.

If you don't have the time to put it aside, or find yourself stuck, then getting a second opinion is always helpful. Ask someone whose opinion you value and know will speak honestly. It doesn't matter if they don't quite get your work, because that can show you where it needs improvement.

Having a conversation about your writing with someone who has a different way of thinking can help you see things more clearly. Their different perspective might mean that they can see solutions to the more visible problems, like grammar and syntax.

Tip #4: Check it Once, Check it Twice.

You might find it easy to check the grammar and syntax of your writing, or it could be the most daunting part of the whole process. It might be worth putting your writing through an online programme as well as getting someone to read it over. Verse and prose present different problems when it comes to syntax, so bear in mind that you might need to try different solutions before you find one that works for you.

Tip #5: Change It Up

Another way of putting some space between you and your work is to change the formatting. Use a different font, increase the size and line breaks and print it out. This is all about getting mental distance from your writing - it's easier to think critically when it doesn't look like something you poured your heart into at 3am.

Tip #6: Make a Mess

Get comfortable with scribbling all over your papers. It might be nerve-wracking at first, but writing over and around your work is the best way to edit. You break the barrier you've set up around your writing, and it becomes easier to make changes when you can look at the paper and see them. If (like me) you prefer to keep things neat, you can underline and highlight to your heart’s content.

Use a red pen. Go on, you know you want to.

Tip #7: Get Comfy

Go to your happy place - make sure that you're somewhere that you can sit and concentrate without distractions. Being physically comfortable, somewhere that you feel safe and relaxed, means that you'll find it easier to work.

Also try to set aside specific time to edit rather than trying to do too much at once, or squeezing it in. Sitting down with a goal in mind will help you to be more productive.

Tip #8: Let It Go.

I get it - it's your baby.  Whether it's a haiku or a full length novel, it's something that you've put part of yourself into, and you don't want to let go of it. But it'll be easier once you've started editing, and you'll find that change isn't always bad: as well as polishing up your work into a finished piece, it can make your writing into something you didn't think it could be. You might surprise yourself, and find that it leads you in a new direction.

Tip #9: Be Kind to Yourself

It's great to be inspired by other writers and while it can be useful to imitate them when you're trying to find your voice, no good ever comes from comparing yourself to them. Be kind to yourself - your writing will thank you for it. If you're constantly striving to write like someone else, you won't ever write like you. Thinking negatively can discourage you, whereas positive thinking will help you develop better writing habits.

Have some tips for editing you'd like to share? Tweet @falwriting with your best.

by Gabby Willcocks