Tips on How to Edit Your Own Writing by Author Sandra Miller

Sandra Miller

You have come up with a great idea and you managed to translate it into words? You are surely happy with the result of your work, but now comes the really tough part – editing it. Talented writers have creative minds and they rarely have a problem creating a captivating story, but the editing process isn’t fun and it limits their creativity. That’s why many of them simply avoid this step, but that is the worst thing you could do because you wouldn’t end up providing your reader with the best possible piece to read.

Why is it difficult to edit your own writing?

There are many reasons that make editing your own work a challenging task. First of all, it is your personal form of artistic expression and it is often painful to do the cutting, redrafting and revising. Another thing is that every single word you’ve written is too close to you. You crafted those sentences and it’s only natural for them to make sense to you. You know what you wanted to say and you understand the flow just perfectly. It is more than difficult for you to spot the gaps and repetitive phrases.

After all, you are a human and you make mistakes. Our eyes can play tricks on us, and even the most obvious typos can get by when you spend so much time on your writing.

Yes, self-editing is a hard thing to do, but it is also necessary and you can’t publish the piece if you don’t review the text. Not every writer has a professional editor that stands behind them and cleans up the mess, but you should send a cleaner copy even if you do have an editor. The ability of self-editing your work will make the difference between being an average talent and a great writer.

How to edit your own writing

The first and most important thing to remember is to write first. Don’t do the editing while you’re in the middle of a creative flow, because you would never finish a piece that way. Just get it all out before you come back to it to fix it, after the story is finished.

It is always wise to start the editing process with a spell check. This is a very helpful tool, although you shouldn’t rely completely on it because it does play some tricks on you. Run the spelling and grammar checker before you start with the real editing, but be careful and don’t use it mechanically.

Now that the most important phase (writing the piece) is done, you should step away from the work for a while. Go have a coffee with your friends, or a long walk in the park. The best thing you could do is to let the piece rest at least overnight before you come back to it with an editing eye.

If you print out your story, you will be able to catch more errors when compared to reading it on your computer screen. This is why it is important to change the format of the piece in order to edit it better. If you don’t want to print it, you can read it in ‘preview’ mode, which will still change your point of view and allow you to spot the errors more easily.

Here is another effective tip that will make your self-editing process easier: take the printed piece to read it in a place other than your working environment. Changing the location can make a real difference!

Before you start making important changes, you have to read the piece all the way through, in order to think of it as a whole. Reading the aloud can also help you notice the parts and sentences that don’t make sense. If you find yourself justifying a sentence and reading it more than once before it sounds clear, you need to change it.

After reading everything, it will be easier for you to consider the big picture and identify the sections that need to be removed, or missing pieces that need to be added. The editing process should not start with polishing every single word and sentence. Macro editing always comes first, so you should first take care of the big things and then move onto the details. When it comes to the micro editing process, it should start only after you are completely satisfied with the big picture. Cut on the word count and remove every unnecessary word. The micro editing process means considering each word and every sentence. Use active voice whenever possible, and make sure your sentence constructions are clear.

This is very important: when you go though the whole piece, it doesn’t mean that the editing is done. You need to reread the piece once again, because sometimes you can make mistakes while editing too. Run another spell check to round things up, as this simple step can save you lots of frustration in the end.

Conclusion: Self-editing is necessary

It’s definitely not easy to self-edit your own writing, but it is more than necessary if you want to deliver a polished piece that will capture many readers. Even if you have a professional editor to take care of this process, you should still go through the piece yourself because otherwise you would provide them with unclear work and the only way to edit some parts of it would be to change your voice. That is not something you would want to happen, so if you want the piece to look exactly as you hoped for – you need to learn how to edit your own writing. 

Sandra Miller is freelance short story author and graduate of Literature from the NYU, where she wrote for the students journal and tutored students in writing. She recommends authors use professional editing services Help.Plagtracker.(click to get more details) Now she is writing her first YA novel.

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24 thoughts on “Tips on How to Edit Your Own Writing by Author Sandra Miller

  1. It’s probably just me because I’m a klutz with a computer. So I spell check last when everything else is right – that doesn’t mean I don’t check the spelling of words that look wrong if I spot them on the read through, I just don’t let the computer do it because if I use spellcheck at the start of the editing process it won’t spellcheck again because it assumes having done it once everything is okay even though I’ve added words/sentences/ paragraphs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This article is like super useful!
    I realize that editing is necessary, even though it is not so fun to do.
    (It is one of the things that makes me wish that I had a clone (so he could be the one doing the job), L-O-L!



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