Editing Tip: The Time Cushion and The Format Switch

Posted: December 19, 2015 in Writing Tips
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Editing is hard.

Writing can be hard, but that’s the fun part. You allow all of your ideas to spill out through your preferred method, – either by hand or through type, – and watch your story unfold. Once you’re done you then need to go back with an ax and hack away at the unnecessary growth and fix all of the errors that are found within your pages.

That is not an easy process and it’s no wonder that hiring a professional editor is often a necessary thing. Having someone else with unbiased eyes look at your work is important. However; the reality is, not everyone can afford an editor. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an editor among our family or friends, either.

Self-editing is frowned upon, I know it this. You see it in the advice given to self-publishing authors all the time to hire an editor. If you can afford it, do it. In my situation it’s not possible, leaving it up to me. I was lucky in that one of my beta readers offered to circle misspellings, typos, and fragments that I missed the first time around with a red pen. I was grateful for this help.

Hacking up my manuscript was up to me. Figuring out how to cut out the fluff was my job. This wasn’t painful because I had waited eleven years. This isn’t always going to be true. Fixing errors was painful because I was excited to get it done. While I went through this process I learned a few things that improved my ability to edit on my own and catch mistakes.

Give yourself an editing cushion

After completing each draft give yourself an amount of time to close the project and take a break. This reminds me of when you finish cooking meat and you let it “rest” a few minutes before you cut it. The story will still be simmering in your head, but when you come back you’ll be refreshed and able to look at it with fresh eyes.

Everyone’s time for this may differ. I prefer a couple of weeks but others may prefer more or less time.

Change the format in which you view your project

You’ve just spent weeks typing up a draft on a computer. Seeing things in the same way over and over makes it harder to see a problem. Print the story out or find a document reader for your phone or tablet. Read every page as if you were a reader, not a writer. You’ll be surprised how many surprise typos or weird sentences will suddenly appear.

While in your new format you may not be able to make changes right away, and I think this is a good thing. Mark your print out or make a list if you’re on your phone. Read in sections and take your time, then go back and fix the mistakes or make changes. With your word processing program you’ll have a Find feature. Use it to your advantage in finding the errors and fixing them.

Repeat the process

How many times should you repeat? As many times as you need, but don’t get caught in an editing circle of eternity. At least repeat once if you’re already a strong editor. If you’re not as strong two or three times may be necessary. Just remember that writers with editors through publishing houses have typos in their published work, some more glaring than others. If you feel you’ve done the best you can, it could just be time to give it to your beta readers or prepare for publishing.

Another thing to remember is if you’re publishing an eBook, it’s not a finite format. You can upload a new version if you discover there’s a problem and you’ve fixed it.

Thank you as always for reading. Do you have any editing tips you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.

 

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Comments
  1. I agree with both your pieces of editing advice, and will add another. Printing the manuscript out and giving myself some time are both things that I do, but in addition, I know several writers who put their work into a text-to-speech program so that they can hear it, a great way to catch wrong words or awkward phrasing.

    Personally, I always know when my editing is done when I find myself doing nothing but fiddling with commas. If that’s all I’m doing, it’s time to let it go. Good luck with your editing!

    Liked by 1 person

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