Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Focus Your Editing With Lists & Re-Readings

We often re-read our pieces over and over during the revising and editing process. It is impossible to catch every possible error, awkward moment or inconsistency during a single reading. We might auto-correct in our minds or even while reading the work aloud. 

Here's my editing tip: Read your work with only one issue in mind at a time. And then read it again with another issue in mind. (And yes, this will take a while.)

Start by making a list with two columns. In one column, write a list of the top 5-10 things you usually do well. Then, in the second column, write a list of the top 5-10 things that often trip up your writing. 

Here is an incomplete list of some things you might include in one of the columns: 
Verb tense consistency
Punctuation (particularly commas)
Verb strength (Do you rely on conjugated forms of "to be" often or do you choose more muscular verbs? Do your verbs need adverbs in order to offer a clear action?)
Noun strength (Do you need many adjectives to clarify your objects?)
Plot (Use your outline to check that you have a clear narrative arc)
Character development and consistency

Read through your writing with one of these issues in mind at a time. Start with the list of the things you usually do well. Do you continue to do them well? Then move onto the harder issues: the list of things that don't come as easily.

Don't forget to give yourself some time between readings. Waiting at least a day between a major revision and another revision will help you to have the necessary distance from the piece to edit and revise it. 

What editing and revising tips do you rely on? Click through for more posts on editing and revising

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