In previous blog posts I have spent quite a lot of time looking at ways in which you can start writing. Today I thought I would do something a little different, and look at the art of what you do once you have finished writing: editing.
In my own writing, I am often guilty of writing far too much, and spend plenty of time trimming my writing down. For example, a short story I recently completed was 7500 words when I finished writing it, and 4800 when I had edited it. If you have a similar problem, then this blog post should be of use. I will be writing about editing fiction, but what I explore should also be applicable to poetry, drama and non-fiction too. These are my own personal tips, so don’t take them as things you must do. Everybody edits differently, just as everybody writes differently.
- Give yourself time. After finishing a piece of writing, it can be tempting to start editing straightway. Avoid this if you can. There isn’t a prescriptive amount of time you should leave, but make sure enough time has passed that the story is not occupying your thoughts all the time, as it will be when you are writing. This will mean that you can come to the editing process slightly more unfamiliar with your story than you were during the writing stage, and will be more likely to spot errors or changes that need to be made.
- Read aloud. Often, by reading your story aloud, you will hear sentences that don’t quite sound right. You can work out whether you need to reconstruct a sentence, or discover that your dialogue is clunky and needs rewriting. This is a really valuable exercise that I would recommend trying if you haven’t done it before.
- Finally, be ruthless. You might have written a beautiful paragraph describing the cup that your protagonist has just picked up, but unless the cup is a major plot point, does the reader need to know about it? Only keep in your manuscript the things you need the reader to know. Everything else can be deleted, however wonderfully written it is.
These are my main editing tips and are things I find particularly helpful, but you may have different editing techniques not mentioned here. If you do, then let us know! We are always keen to hear about how the wonderful works we receive are created.
Ned Vessey, Fiction Editor
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