“Every writer I know has trouble writing.”
Among the many valuable online resources I’ve turned up in my drive to fueling this blog is a site called WhereWritersWin.com. While it focuses mainly on helpful marketing strategies for authors, it also offers general writing advice. Recently I came across some excellent pointers for self-editing on the site that I wanted to share with you:
1. If you have the luxury of time, get some distance from the work. Approaching your words with fresh eyes will always offer a clearer perspective. If you can’t give it a few weeks, give it a few days. If you don’t have a few days, even a few hours away can help.
2. Don’t trust spell-checkers! These are great tools for a first pass when you’re in draft mode, but they won’t catch many errors, such as when a missing letter in a word changes it to another word or meaning.
3. PRINT your work and proof it on paper. We’re not sure why this works, but it does — perhaps because we’re getting a fresh look and can approach it more objectively than something we’ve stared at on-screen for days?
4. Read your piece out loud — slowly. This will quickly let you see words that may be missing as well as echos in the text and/or awkward sentence structure.
5. Still nervous about a dreaded typo? Use an old proofreader trick: Read the work backwards. Yes, it takes some discipline and it won’t serve for themes and sentence structure, but it’s definitely easier to see a mistake when your brain isn’t already assuming the rest of the sentence!
6. Check your entry point. Typically a written piece, whether article, essay or even a book, begins softly as the writer works his or her way into the story. Writers are often surprised to discover that the work would stand on its own better if they lost the first line, lines, paragraph or even pages. See how far down you can begin reading and get the same or greater impact from your words.
7. Kill the “ly” words. We all use them, and all too often. Feel free to use them while you write away, but always with the intention of removing as many as possible as you go back through the work. Most writers will kill at least a dozen a page!
8. Ditto multiple adjectives. Less is more and if words can be removed to tighten the text, axe ‘em!
9. Finally, eliminate clichés. Let your work be original; find a way to restate a common thought in a new way!
I’ve used many of these tips in editing my work and found them very helpful. Write on!