Monday, March 25, 2013

5-step writing process: editing

Step 3: editing. In reality, editing and revising go together for me as one step.  I always do both simultaneously. This is because editing and revising writing have some similarities.  They both involve re-reading an already written draft and making changes.  For this post, I am specifically looking at my editing process.

As Janet Burroway explains in her book Imaginative Writing, "Editing addresses such areas as clarity, precision, continuity and flow. One way to see the distinction is that editing can be done by an editor, someone other than the author, whereas revision is usually turned back to the author." When I think of editing, I think about creating effective, readable sentences by improving the spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax of my work.  Editing is about polishing the writing as well as correcting mistakes.

Once I have a draft of my writing, I like to let the work sit a while--a week, a few months--so that I can come back and look on it with fresh eyes. I always look over it again before showing it to anyone else. I find reading aloud helpful. Built-in spelling and grammar checkers are helpful for what they are, but I try not to rely to heavily on them. I uses the spell-check to catch quick typos, but it's no replacement for scouring a manuscript for subject-verb agreements and comma splices.

When I read over my own work I will notice certain mistakes that crop up repeatedly. I have the bad habit of writing past when I mean passed. Technology can help here. I use my word processors search function to find all instances of the troublesome words and insure I use the one I mean.  And when I'm unsure if I should use affect or effect, I look it up.

Once I've re-read my draft, I have someone else look over it. My usual beta reader is my husband.  I am also a member of two local writers groups. I really recommend joining a group that meets in-person, but if you can't find a local group, there are online critique groups, as well.  That being said, be careful who you choose to let read your work--a fellow writer, someone you trust and whose opinion you respect.

Once I've editing and revised the piece, I do it again, and again.  There is no magic number of times because writing is never, never done.

Burroway, J. (2007). Imaginative writing: the elements of craft. Penguin Academics.

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