Never mind how to write: learn how to edit

by Sandra Miller

small__299060326It’s no secret that modern people barely know how to write well. If you ask me, there are people who have great ideas and are talented enough to present them in a creative way, but the problem occurs when the editing part takes its turn. I wouldn’t go as far to say that people today don’t know how to write; I would just say that they simply don’t know how to edit their writing properly.

Don’t be afraid that editing would kill the flow of your sentences, because that is not going to happen. Have you heard of Marcel Proust? He was working on his books for a very long time and edited the sentences to perfection. I can’t say that he made them more readable, but that was probably not his purpose. This example proves that even the greatest writers know that they can always do better and even if it takes months to get a single chapter right, it’s all worth it if you deliver a better final product.

Writing courses can teach you a lot about creative writing, but they rarely mention something about editing. That’s too bad, because editing is what makes the real difference between mediocre writers and Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, Erich Maria Remarque and other impressive names. Many people can think of a great story – not many of them can find the perfect way of interpreting it.

Implement our simple tips that will make you a better editor, and you will definitely become a better writer!

Reading in reverse and reading aloud

Many writers use a little controversial technique that helps them edit their work: they read backwards. Well, no one said that writers were common people with boring ideas, right? This interesting technique can work wonders in editing, because it can help you to bypass the tendency of your brain to fill in the expected and miss the obvious mistakes.

Although reverse reading is great for catching spelling errors, it won’t do you any good when it comes to content. This is where reading out loud comes into the picture. Reading your work out loud will put you in the reader’s role and you will be able to catch the passages and phrases that seem awkward or too pretentious.

Take a creative break

Don’t start editing your work as soon as you finish writing it. To take a “creative break” means that you should wait at least for a night or two before you start the editing process. The ideal advice is to forget about what you wrote and see it from a different aspect when you go back to it. That way, your brain won’t see the expected sentences and phrases, but it will see the real writing.

If you start the editing process too soon after you finish writing, your brain will still be filled with arguments, examples and ideas that won’t let you approach your writing with a clear mind.

Don’t add, but edit out

small__2756494307Writers are usually too wordy – all of them! You can feel free to add few words and phrases while editing, but make sure to keep the additions to minimum and focus on removing the unnecessary words.

Let’s compare Proust and Dostoevsky for an example: Proust is complicated, dense and heavy, while Dostoevsky is concise and his sentences are straight to the point. These styles are different and both of them are extremely powerful, but Dostoevsky’s clean style has reached many more people and literally changed their lives.

Justify yourself and stop being pretentious

When I mentioned Proust in the previous example, I didn’t do it with the intention of saying that he sounded pretentious. Few writers have had the talent to express such a rich style without sounding ridiculous. As for modern and inexperienced writers, they often get stuck to the academic language, they use words they don’t even understand and try too hard to look smart, which ends up looking silly.

Every word you write, every point, joke and statement has to be justified in your writing! If the sentence can keep its meaning without a certain word, then don’t be afraid to get rid of it and make the structure simpler. The readers don’t want you to waste their time.

Conclusion: good editing is just as important as good writing

There is no good writing without good editing involved! Editing takes a real talent and practice, but the effort is completely justified with the final result. If you manage to become a good editor, your writing will be more effective, more capturing and more striking. Ultimately, your writing will be more likely to reach out to more readers if you edit it well; and that’s the most important thing at the end of the road.

Sandra Miller is a freelance writer, lives in New York. Two times a year watches Friends sitcom, loves salsa. Uses editing service Help.Plagtracker to write great material. Her passion is Latin American culture.

While you’re here, don’t forget to stop by my Bookshop…books and eBooks to help you write better – and to give to friends and family…

photo credit: TheAlieness GiselaGiardino²³ via photopin cc
photo credit: Unhindered by Talent via photopin cc

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  1. Great post Sandra – and really good reminder to read out aloud. When I started doing that the shocker was how weirdly constructed my sentences actually were…a great tip!

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