Some people believe the first draft is the hardest to write. Coming up with the idea, maintaining motivation and seeking inspiration to complete a first draft can be daunting, however I still believe the hardest part comes after this. The revising and editing process. This is where you will generally spend the majority of your writing time.
I have developed an editing process I find works well for me. I apply it to everything I write; short pieces, long projects, blogs, articles and more. You may find you adopt some of my practices into your own, you need to simply find what works the best for you to produce a high quality and well edited writing project.
This first thing I do when editing any writing projects is to make a list of everything I know that will need to be checked (such as spelling names correctly and consistently, timelines, plot points, theme and character arcs), fixed and assessed. This list helps lessen those feelings of overwhelm when looking at your rough draft, as well as provide direction when the daunting task of editing is at hand. Once I have finished my list I break the revision process down into sections that I refer to as the “Attack of The R’s”: Re-read, Rest, Re-arrange, Re-word, and Re-check.
This re-reading stage is about identifying flaws and holes in your plot (if writing non-fiction or creative fiction), as well as double checking facts, figures and research (fiction, articles, assignments etcetera). You can make another list, if you wish, of all the finer details that will need further researching and checking to be sure they are accurate and fit in with your story.
Cut out whole chapters, sections, dialogue or pages that do not fit with your story. It is ok to be brutal here. When you have done that once, then read through again and cut out smaller sections such as paragraphs, sentences and phrases that once again do not suit your story and what you are attempting to convey. I save both copies of the draft, the first draft and the reduced draft, so that I can always go back and see what I have cut out. You may also find that some of the things you cut out spark an idea for a different story or even a sequel.
Once you have fixed any major problems and culled down your word count then it is time to move onto the second process in editing your project.
After I have cut down the original draft, I let it “rest” for a while. I put it away for a few days or even for a week or so (as long as there are no deadlines looming) so that when I return to it, I do so with fresh eyes and a new perspective. It also saves you from not only becoming sick of your story, but from missing any mistakes.
This process is once again reading through your project and thinking about the flow and arrangement of your work. If you find that it doesn’t read well, try re-arranging sections, paragraphs and sentences around until you are happy with the flow of words. You should also be double checking that your plot develops in a logical and understandable manner, if it doesn’t then you will need to re-arrange plot points until it makes sense and flows seamlessly.
Now we are getting down into the nitty gritty finer details. I always put this process near the bottom of the list as there is no point spending all that time and effort finding the best words if you only end up cutting that entire section out.
Re-read your work again (yes again!). You may find you re-read your work 100 times or more when it comes to the final processes of editing and perfecting. This stage is where you polish and fine-tune your whole piece. Dissect every paragraph, every sentence and every word. Are you consistent with names, dates, personalities, spelling, tense, and point of view etcetera? Do you use your active voice, not passive? Have you picked powerful words? Re-word and re-write until you feel you are done and couldn’t possibly do any more re-writing. Then read it all again!
If it is a long project I am editing I let it rest for a week or so again. If it is a small project such as an article or blog then I skip the “rest period”.
This re-check is simply a last thorough reading of your project to ensure it flows smoothly, reads well, all mistakes have been fixed, and that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors. I also double-check the list I wrote at the very beginning to confirm I have ticked everything off. If you are confident, you can send it on to a friend, family member or editor for a final check. A new perspective is handy to spot any errors you may not notice after reading your writing project copious amounts of time.
And there you have it. Editing and revising using the “Attack of the R’s”! It is a simple process that can be adapted to any project, big or small. Below is a list of other tips that I use throughout the whole Attack of The R’s process.
Editing and Revising Tips:
- Read and edit on your computer and in paper form
- Read your writing out loud. Is it easy to read? Does it have a smooth rhythm? Does it flow?
- Be brutal and cut out parts that do not suit your project.
- Make sure your writing flows, is logical, and the story line is easy to follow.
- Double-check all facts, figures, quotes, and citations etcetera to ensure they are accurate.
- Have a family member, friend or professional read through and check your work.
- “Rest” your work before a final read through.