Best Practices for Self-Editing

Sarah Tun

Writing is a joy, and sometimes a battle. But the bigger battle (at least for me) is the editing. It’s always best, I recommend, to write-write-write, and to leave the editing until you’ve finished your Draft. Otherwise, you can spend eternity on Chapter 1 and never finish the story!

Once you DO finish a draft…. yes sadly 🙁 , you must edit.)

I find, the best way to edit my work is to leave it alone for a while (a week, a month) and then when I do come back to it, I read it out loud. My ear tells me what my eyes have otherwise missed. I am listening for the following…

  • Does the prose make sense?
  • Where should the commas (and all punctuation) go?
  • Am I interested and engaged as a listener?
  • Have I opened with an attention-grabbing moment? Does each moment follow from the preceding one? Have I made every word count?
  • Does my brain supply a different word for clarity?

If you work this way, once it’s as good as you can make it, why not take it — page by page — to your writers’ group or another writer-friend? As you read it to them/him/her, they/he/she can follow along with copies, and make comments on the document for discussion, and which you can consider thoughtfully afterwards.

This is best practice for editing your own work. And as you can participate in a group, you can do the same for others. Listening to others’ work to give constructive comment teaches you to listen with a critical ear and offer suggestions. Gradually, you’ll discover you’re making changes in your own writing as well. You may well find someone in a group with whom you are particularly compatible, and who you can rely on for mutual l feedback on larger pieces.

This whole process makes everyone involved better writers. I guarantee it!

As to paid editing, yes eventually, you’ll need to hire someone to edit your work. But that is not likely to happen until you’ve spent time on at least a couple of drafts, reworking them yourself until you can’t think of any more ways to improve the piece.

Editing can be a slog. But writing well is hard work. And hard work is always worth the result you gain from it: a good piece, a sense of accomplishment, and a new item to add to your list of creations.

Bottom line: don’t shirk on the editing. Shortcuts show whereas hard work stands head and shoulders above the rest. It’s a competitive world. Take pride in your work, reach for excellence, and you will reap reward, whether in finance or respect; both are worth their weight in blessing.

Sarah Tun is an author, developmental editor, ghostwriter as well as a professional voice for voice overs and narrations.

© 2020 Sarah Tun

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5 thoughts on “Best Practices for Self-Editing”

  1. With all the difficulties and dire situations around the world because of coronavirus, perhaps we have time in — to write.

    May GOD guide our hearts, our minds, our hands, as we use our time wisely for His kingdom messages.

    Write well.

    Every blessing, Sarah xx

  2. I like to think some of us can’t find our vehicles, not in spite of being writers, but because of. Here’s a fond memory of mine I like to relate. I was wandering around looking for our vehicle when a stranger came over to me pretending to be repentant but the merry twinkle in his eyes gave him away.
    “I’m sorry, “he confessed, “I hid your car.”

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