The Honest Truth
There is one thing that I did not appreciate when I started writing. Something that, on reflection. now strikes me as completely naïve. I had an image of sitting on a chaise longue, drinking something expensive and in sudden flourishes spinning a fountain pen across expensive paper and then being done with it. My ideas, the words on the page etched forever in black and white to be typed up and shared with the world.
That is the dream, the truth is somewhat more complicated than that. I surprised myself at this naivety (considering my bread and butter is teaching English), I, you, we all need to edit. The writers craft is beset by editing. There are some simple steps that you can follow pre editing such as planning, drafting and just committing words to the page (or screen) but there is something a little disheartening the first time you read those words and realise the florid prose that you had envisioned is not the completely masterful piece of text that you had in your head.
Welcome my friends, to the world of editing.
So How Do You Edit?
For me, the process is a simple one, first hit the spellcheck function and watch as you realise around 10% of what you have written is not exactly… accurate. This first step is a simple one but very satisfying. I find it primes my brain for what I call the quick wins. After a few minutes you see the literal partying of the red sea (if you use something like Word). Now onto the more difficult task. Actual editing.
This is more difficult. You have to read your work. No, I mean actually read it. Not what you think you put, but what you have actually written. Here you begin to realise the changes you really need to make.
Read your work out loud. No do not think I am completely crazy, read your work out loud and follow it word by word. You will thank me later, here you can start to spot the errors that crop up that are not grammatically wrong but do not make sense in your text, you have not clearly given a character name or the dialogue sounds wrong, or you have used the wrong name altogether.
The reading out loud thing. This is really helpful for catching words or phrases that might slip the net. For me it is the typo form instead of from.
Learn the patterns of common mistakes you make so you can eliminate them in a first draft. When I write I have this weird seeming fetish for writing the word… seeming (I can edit that out right?)
This is from a story I am currently writing (or have written depending on when I post this). Anyway, the long and short of it is this:
By the way this was over the course of two edits while reading aloud. I cannot stress how helpful this is to the editing process.
By the way… again, one more thing I want to share as a bonus tip. You need to get used to the mechanics of English. Learn the correct way to make tenses agree, how to paragraph etc. You could sit down with a textbook and complete that I suppose or, you could do the simplest thing in the world you could do to improve your grasp on the melting pot of English. Read, read and read again. Got five minutes then put your bloody phoner down and pick up a book, something edited and printed AND READ.
Editing takes time but it does help you spot those simple mistakes and carry the thread of your narrative. Good luck oh and final, final bonus tip, get yourself a nice quality red pen. Have fun writing!
You might be interested in my advice on how to plan (below)