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Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box by Mariana Ashley

It can be really difficult just knowing where to start when it comes to editing our own work, so here are some GREAT editing tips from Bang2writer Mariana Ashley this morning – useful to us novelist types, but also screenwriters! Thanks Mariana! I’m fairly certain that editing is one of the most underutilized tools in modern writing, particularly for those who self-publish. I understand and sympathize with this wholeheartedly. It is difficult enough being expected to churn out great writing from nothing on a regular basis; add editing to this and you have a full plate. On top of all of this, editing is not the most enjoyable of activities in the first place. Luckily, there are some unique editing methods that might make the process much more interesting and effective. While editing is never easy (it is meant to challenge and test limits), hopefully these methods will at least make the process more appealing.

Edit Backwards
Try editing your work backwards one sentence at a time. This forces you to slow down your editing process by isolating each sentence with a hiccup, and also gives you a unique perspective of your work. You will undoubtedly spot some dull phrases that previously seemed to “flow” well enough in context; now you can tweak them and improve your piece overall.

Read Aloud
As much as this editing convention is advised, I still find it underused. Reading aloud makes mistakes seem more apparent and easily reveals the areas of your work that read awkwardly. You will also notice small grammatical errors like omitted or scrambled words.

Speed Read
While everyone seems to associate slow, meticulous reading with editing, I also find it helpful to give a very quick skim of your draft as well. Keep in mind the structure of the work and what each paragraph or section is trying to accomplish. This should give you a better holistic view of the work.

Micro Editing
If you have time to be extra thorough, you might want to try reading through the draft with focus to only one specific element of language. You could, for instance, only look at how punctuation is used or verbs (and verb tense). Micro editing is great when you have an idea what your weak points are in writing and language.

Take a Break
It’s best not to edit a draft all in one sitting. If you work too long on one draft, you will start to have ideas and make assumptions about the draft that aren’t actually written in it. Taking a break (I would say at least a few hours) will keep your view of the draft honest and accurate. Just be sure that your editing process doesn’t consist entirely of breaks.

Change Document Formatting
After you come back from a break, to get a truly fresh perspective of the draft, you should perhaps try editing the document’s formatting (font, spacing, etc.). This will psychologically distance you even further from your original draft, inducing a more objective editing process.

Get Someone Else to Read It
This obviously isn’t the most unique of editing methods, but you may be surprised how much it isn’t implemented by writers. Some may be nervous about sharing a fresh draft with critical eyes. Others may just be unsure of who to give it. I recommend giving it to other writers and educators; both should do a fair share of critical reading to give you effective criticism.
Mariana Ashley is a freelance writer who particularly enjoys writing about online colleges. She loves receiving reader feedback, which can be directed to mariana.ashley031ATgmailDOTcom.

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8 thoughts on “Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box by Mariana Ashley”

  1. Great advice, thank you – Kate Leys at LSWF reminded me that no matter how hard you find it to make cuts, it’s better to cut your work yourself before you pass it to someone else who will select cuts differently – one last way to keep control of your work!

  2. I frequently read a lot of my writing out loud; it really helps to find not only the mistakes, but also themes or motifs that I may not have noticed before.

    I haven’t tried editing backwards, though. That seems like a good idea!

  3. Even better than reading your work aloud: have someone else read your work out while you listen and scrawl notes on a [separate!] hard copy. You will auto-correct and/or auto-edit when you read aloud, sometimes not even noticing you are doing it. Someone who sight-reads your work aloud will stumble on every mistake, every error, every loss of rhythm or slip in register. It’s a lengthy process and can be excruciatingly painful if the work lacks polish, but does wonders…

  4. I was intrigued by the title of the post, but disappointed to find there was nothing ‘outside of the box’ about it. Same old same old.

    1. If you say so, Jody Lebel. Perhaps you are further down the writing journey! Certainly when I read it, I had never considered working backwards for example. This revolutionised my editing process.

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