You’d have thought I’d have suggested murder.
“Great job with the story and the plot, but you might want to consider a bit more self-editing.” My comment, though said in the kindest of ways, floored the conferee.
“Self-edit?” She swallowed hard. “I proofed it. Are there typos?”
The more conferences where I’m blessed to teach, the more I see the rising need to address self-editing. For the experienced writer self- editing is is a no brainer. They understand the process. Write, edit, write, edit again. But for the new writer, self-editing doesn’t compute past proofing. There is a difference. A big difference.
I can’t proof my own work for the life of me. My mind’s eye refuses to focus in on transposed letters, extra spaces and the right word spelled the wrong way. But self-editing I can manage.
This process of backtracking over my previous chapter has been a skill learned through years of sharing in critique groups. As our growth as a writer expands we’re able to see the flaws that trip up the reader. It takes practice to learn self-editing and I highly recommend purchasing a couple of great self-editing books such as Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Rennie Browne & Dave King or Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell. These are both wonderful tools every writer needs on their bookshelves. Self-editing teaches you the craft of writing. Here are some fast self-editing tools to help you improve your work.
Synonyms – The greatest writer gift in the world is a Thesaurus. Get one. Learn to use it. Find new words that pack a punch. Take “hardily laughing” to a guffaw. Keep your audience in mind when you’re choosing new words, you’ll not only cut the word count but you’ll draw your reader in.
Similes and Metaphors – Learn to use them. They’ll take dull descriptions and turn them into peach pie.
Check the Dictionary - It’s easy to use the right word but spell it wrong. i.e. there and their; then and than, etc. Webster is pretty smart.
Action and Reaction - Make sure the action comes first. You can’t pay with cash until you pull out your wallet.
Active and Passive Voice – Passive writing is slow and boring. Check your work and when you run upon passive sentences, rewrite them. Active voice pulls the reader into the action and makes the read fun and interactive. Not to mention it shaves words off your word count.
RUE – Resist the Urge to Explain -If it doesn’t move the story ahead, cut it. We tend to over explain. Choose good words and description. A few good words will speak volumes.
These are just a few self-editing tips. Make self-editing a part of your writing process.