I know a lot of writers.
Scratch that. I know a lot of people who call themselves writers.
And one thing I’ve noticed that really burns my bum is the fact that they don’t edit their work.
They think that as soon as they’ve committed a word to a page, it’s golden and perfect.
Anyone who loves to write with a true passion knows that writing is mutable. Your words, your phrasing, can and will change. They have to.
Writing is half creation, half revision.
I’ll admit, I’m kind of talking out of my own ass here. I’m only a semi-published freelance writer who knows less than Jon Snow, but I’m also talking from the perspective of a proofreader. I have proofread and edited more written works than I’ve got years on my life. Hell, even this blog here gets proofread more than it deserves.
So I hate it when someone writes a piece and then takes pride in how little they had to edit it. I want to grab them, shake them, and scream in their faces, “That’s not a badge of honor! That’s a warning sign!”
Even more than writing words, editing those words is the most important part of the writing process. I say/write that with the assumption that you are writing things for someone else to read. You edit your words for your readers. You should always think to yourself, ‘What sounds better when I say it out loud? Does this make any sense? Is any of this intelligible? Could this be better?’
My favorite kinds of writers are those who question themselves constantly. Any person who writes something, frowns in dismay after reading it, and whose first impulse is to throw it in the trash, is a friend of mine.
It’s not just a quality I admire in writers. It’s a quality I admire in people. The desire to constantly improve is praiseworthy. (Plus, self-deprecating humor is the best.)
So to any aspiring writers who are reading this, always try to edit your work. Actively search for aspects to improve. Writing is a climb, and you always want to be moving upwards.
Editing can be as basic as just re-reading things you’ve already written. I’ve proofread so many academic essays where I know in my gut the kids just typed it, printed it, and then submitted it. You’d be surprised how much a simple read-through could help your writing.
For me, editing takes multiple stages, but each stage can be boiled down to two types of editing: big and small.
Big editing is looking to change the meaning and structure of an entire piece. For instance, if I was writing a novel, a big edit would be adjusting some plot points or moving around chapters to better suit the flow.
Small editing brings my focus down to individual sentences. Could something be phrased better? Is a word sticking in my craw whenever I read the sentence out loud? I think about the minutiae when I do my small editing.
I do my editing best when it is on paper in front of me. Unfortunately, I’m not a huge fan of editing on a computer screen, which is a shame because that’s definitely the norm nowadays. Reading my words out loud always helps too.
Editing is not fun. No one in the history of ever has said that editing is fun. But it is necessary, and there is nothing like the feeling of finishing up some much-needed proofing.
Of course, if you’re doing it right, you always kind of feel like just a little more should be done. So if you think about it, you never feel as if you’re finished.
Hey, no one ever said writing was easy either.