With 24 hour access to an ever-expanding market of professional editors, you may be tempted to hire one yourself. However, it always helps to edit your own work since it not only polishes your writing skills but also makes you more attentive to detail. After all, if you can create a work of creative fiction or non-fiction, you can certainly make it better with the eagle-eye of an editor. I do agree that editing your own work can be annoying, time-consuming, and never-ending. Ask me, a person who has written and re-written those school admission essays an umpteen number of times. Now I hand over the mantle of editing those essays to my mother, a self-professed critic of my works. Even so, I still firmly believe that I should be my own strongest critic. I’m going to leave a few pointers here that might help you critique your own work as well.
• Give your written masterpiece a break
You’ve spent months writing that drama novel. The characters have been fleshed out but somehow you still aren’t happy with the draft. Hours of coffee and reams of paper later, the story is just not coming together. So what do you do? Take a break from your writing and come back to it after a while with a fresh perspective. The time gap will allow you to read your work as though you are reading it for the first time and assess it objectively.
• Keep a hard copy handy
Now, we are not propagating paper wastage here but what you may miss on the computer screen, may catch your eye in print. Take a printout of your manuscript so that it becomes easier for you to check on spelling, grammar, and other errors. Green Tip: Do this only for the final draft, print both sides of the paper and use smaller fonts.
• Identify the intended audience
Sometimes, to enhance your writing, it is equally crucial to know your intended audience. Who is going to read your work? Why are you writing what you are? Is your audience a group of children? Are you targeting a corporate audience? A few key questions to ask yourself before you begin writing.
• Be in the reader’s shoes
Remember that although you may have a soft spot for your writing, the reader will not. Do you think the reader will love your writing? Can they relate to what you have written? If a reader had to do the same thing as your character did then what would his reaction be? Your writing needs to make sense and most importantly, has to engage and interest the readers. If you are not happy with your work, chances are your readers won’t be either. Think from the readers’ perspective before finalizing your draft.
• Take a breath of fresh air and then revisit
Just so you know, sitting at your desk for hours writing and curling up the paper into balls and tossing them around, is not your way to great editing. If you are a gadget friendly writer then staring into those screens and fiddling with Word functionalities is not going to help either. What you’d much rather do is take a breath of fresh air. Go take a walk in the garden. Nature might just revitalize your senses and help you get into the editing groove.
• Coffee addict? It just might help
That whiff of cappuccino might help unravel the entangled thoughts in your head. Imagine you are sipping on some piping hot café latte. Even thinking about it completely energizes me. That one sip could be the reason for enhancing your work by 50 words or more. The important thing is to stay fresh and alert while editing.
• Eliminate redundancy
Look out for all those clichés and redundancies in your work. Eliminate the grammar and spelling mistakes. Don’t repeat the same thoughts over and over again. You cannot only rely on the spell checks by word processors. Try to condense your thoughts by making it shorter and more meaningful.
• Read Aloud
Does a sentence look odd? When in doubt, simply read your writing out aloud. This will not only help you understand the flow but also allow you to detect slippery, ambiguous errors.
With the above tips and tricks, you can become a professional editor yourself. Having had some experience in editing friends’ works, I did consider becoming a freelance editor at one point of time. But by happy chance, I remain a passionate writer, editing my own work.
Written by: Kritika Pramod Kulshrestha
Kritika is an engineer by profession, but an amateur poet and writer as well. She finds solace in writing and loves weaving magic with her words.