Editing is Not an Option: My Six Tools

printed page for editing with question in margin (Theresa Duncan)

Editing. Proofreading. Then editing and proofreading again – and yet again. This is the hard work of writing for publication. If you aren’t editing your work, you are journaling. Or worse, you are going to self-publish a piece of writing that is not your very best work.

No matter who publishes your work, it is still your work and should put your best writing forward. You are building or tearing down your reputation as a writer, depending on the editing.

We have all read things that we thought, “How did that get published?!” Whether the story has too many details or characters for the reader to follow or whether numerous grammatical errors become distracting, we often make a mental note of the author, sometimes even feeling disrespected by the piece. That kind of careless editing damages your reputation. It may also show that you need to hire a new editor.

In the New York Times “Bookends” in 2015, author Cheryl Strayed said,

“I write to find out what I have to say. I edit to figure out how to say it right.” – Cheryl Strayed


(Read Cheryl Strayed’s thoughts on the creative process in this article at https://nyti.ms/2WAiHMQ.)

What does she mean by saying it right? Writing right means telling the story in such a way your reader goes on the journey with you, without getting lost or led down a path too difficult or convoluted to find their way back. This does not come automatically in writing; it comes through multiple edits.

Six editing tools I find helpful are:

  • set aside a particular time to edit
  • edit sections of work, rather than whole chapters
  • edit on hard copy, separate from edits done on screen
  • use colored pens/pencils or highlighters for different edits (i.e. purple for questions; red for grammar/punctuation: etc.)
  • edit for one thing at a time (grammar today, clarity tomorrow, etc.)
  • stop editing when you are overwhelmed, become disheartened, or have blurred vision or thoughts 🙂

Writing is hard. Editing is hard. This writer gig we have chosen (or has writing chosen us?) is hard – but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Would you?

Happy writing – and editing… ~T

At Stacking Stones Writers, I seek to create a community of writers, a place you can go to find encouragement for your passion – writing.  Please follow the Stacking Stones Writers blog to have easy access to all the tips, tools, and ideas shared here.  Thank you

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