3 Editing Tips — Let’s Improve Our Writing

Today, more than ever, many people believe that good writing flows easily from pen to paper. Yet that’s not the case, and writers out there know it. We understand it takes weeks or months to perfect every line we write within a book, that a writer’s work is in the rewriting, not the writing.

Oh, how I wish at least one of my English teachers during my schooling taught me this. Instead they teach how to write–but not how to edit. Why is that? Editing is where the real work of writing begins. So, let me share some more editing tips this week, shining a light on this subject which is so very close to my heart.

When editing, delete, and rarely add

Yes, you read this right. Writers are usually too wordy and after finishing your first draft of your book, each subsequent draft will reduce in word count. Concise writing is more powerful and will pick up the pace of your book. Which means it’s not unusual for most writers to finish their rewriting with ten to twenty percent less than they originally began with. So many words that we didn’t even need.

Sleep on it

When you’re editing, ideally you want to forget what you wrote so that you’re not expecting to see what you do. *Chuckle* Seriously, when you’re editing, keep moving through the pages, then sleep on what you’ve done. If there’s a particularly difficult piece bugging you, highlight it and leave it, then come back to it after you’ve slept. When we approach our writing, it must be done with a clear mind. This is why there are several drafts in a book. Each time we return to the beginning, it’s with fresh eyes.

Avoid passive sentences

Within our writing, this is the use of (to be, is, were, was, am, are, had.)  Although not always, but in many cases.

As writers we need to avoid the use of passive sentences wherever possible, and this is what publishers and editors ask we do. Passive writing is unconvincing, ultimately weakening the structure of what we write. So, below, I’m going to give you varying examples of moving passive sentences into “active,” by removing the listed words above. Just remember, I’m not talking in all cases, but many.

  • It’s important to state actively what our characters are thinking and doing.
  • It’s important to state actively what our characters think and do.
  • Jack was clapping his hands along with the audience as Jane finished her song on stage.
  • Jack clapped his hands along with the audience as Jane finished her song on stage.
  • Max was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt.
  • Max wore jeans and a white t-shirt.
  • Mary is upset to have missed the show.
  • Missing the show upset Mary.
  • “Errors were made,” Henry said.
  • “I made an error,” Henry said.

 

Sound editing is so important.  Just remember it takes time and practice to perfect, but keep working on it because in the end, the results in your work will show.  Well, that’s all for this week, and I hope my blog post aided you.  If you haven’t joined me for your weekly dose of bite-sized writing tidbits and you’d like to, then simply check out the right-hand side panel, and enter your email address to “follow the blog.”  If you want, also click “like” on my FB author page to the right.  I love all the support.

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20 thoughts on “3 Editing Tips — Let’s Improve Our Writing

  1. I’ve had such a bad day. This was just what I needed as a cheer up 🙂

    Great tips! I wrote things and let them sit for a time after the first edit. I caught a lot more errors that way.

    Great tips, thanks for thinking of us and sharing xx

  2. Hi Joanne,
    Nice post! Excellent basics for edits. My first book lost 20K words after its first edit. And now, after having it out for a year, I’ve had it
    reproofed and discovered I had used the word “that” about 200 times too often!
    Marla

    1. Hi Marla,
      The word “that” is a sneaky one. It’s one of those “filler words” we have to take out during editing. I now take “that” out to such a degree, my editor actually reinserted the odd one back into my last manuscript. Ah, made me laugh. 🙂 Thanks for leaving a comment. Love it.

  3. Hi, Joanne. Very useful post. I’m in editing Hell right now. You’re so right about editing being the real work. Your tips gave me a fresh outlook. Thanks!

    1. Hi Jo,
      Editing is such a major task. If it takes me 2 months to write a novel, then it can take me another 2-3 months to actually edit it. You’re not alone in your thoughts–editing is tiring. But the end result, oh boy, don’t we love that.

  4. Great tips. I particularly like your suggestion of “sleeping on it.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up with fresh ideas and sharpened thoughts. More rest isn’t laziness, but vital. Guess I’m growing up! 😉

  5. I heard that ‘passive thing’ in writing classes and such but I never really got it until I revised my novel. That was a lot of work to do.

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