Congrats! You just finished writing the last work in your latest masterpiece, be it your novel, short story, poetry collection, play or screenplay.
Well, you don’t need this blog post to tell you that you shouldn’t reach right away for the red pen. Your eyes feel strained, your head hurts from too much thinking and your fingers ache from typing or writing.
That doesn’t mean you should take a forever writing hiatus by living on your couch. You’ll have to face the music eventually (in terms of editing your writing) if you ever want your story to find an audience.
Before you begin your adventure into editing the wildness of your writing, you should work on a few things. Don’t enter the wilderness unless you are focused and committed to the editorial process.
And it doesn’t help having a strong strategy in place.
So, what should serious writers (like you and me) do with their time before editing their writing? You’ll find yourself ready for the challenge after you complete these five tasks:
Step Away For a Bit (or a Really Long Time)
This one’s a no-brainer. If you haven’t intuitively figured this step out for yourself, you’ll find it suggested on almost every editing-related blog post.
But there’s a reason for that. You have concentrated so closely to the minute-by-minute details of your story that you are feeling claustrophobic within the chaos of your words.
It’s time to step away. Not forever, but just for now. If you’re on a deadline, give yourself a set amount of time for a break. If you’re in a hurry to rush your manuscript out the door without an actual cut-off date, hold yourself to taking a longer break.
This is not permission to glue yourself in front of your TV or whatever device you use nowadays to stream a show. Don’t let yourself escape life due to a constant marathon of television and movies.
Stories are exciting because the characters live their lives. So take their advice and live yours by making this short break an active one.
Go on a weekend road trip. Go shopping. Go to a winery. Go have a games night with friends. Go take an extracurricular class. Go explore a new neighborhood.
Just get out and do something.
Write Something Else (for a Change)
It’s not time to tackle another big writing project. You already have your latest masterpiece draft waiting in the wings.
The goal here isn’t to create something that collects you money or a fan base (although these can also be great perks). Your focus here is to reawaken your creativity. Another approach to writing can give you a new perspective that you can apply to the story within your awaiting draft.
We often tell ourselves that we can’t write during the editorial process. But that could be the best thing you can do for your big writing project. Get in the practice of writing now, even words that are casual and will never be shared, so when it’s time to jump in your next big writing project, you won’t hesitate.
Reread Your Favorite Cult Classic
What story can you never stop reliving? You’ve read it a dozen times and you’ve pondered about it for hours, yet you’re still not bored thinking and talking about it.
Give it one more read, this time as an active reader.
While you read it, jot down a list of all the reasons why this story resonates so much with you as a reader. How does this writer develop the characters, create the scene and sculpt the plot?
Now you have a list of actionable items you can take with you to your editing session once you’ve started the editorial process.
For playwrights and screenwriters, I urge you to read the script of your favorite play or film. Yes, it’s important to see how the words actualized from the page onto the stage or screen. What you should focus on is how the writer (or team of writers) crafted a story with words that translates well acted out.
Write Right Editing Tools
Decades ago, the only editing tool of choice was a red pen. Now there are digital tools that can catch even the most embarrassing of mistakes.
I like going old-school when it comes to editing my writing. I enjoy the physical process of reading my printed words and inking out my own mistakes with a pen.
But like the creative process, every writer’s preferred editing style differs. So if you’re uncertain which editing method works for you, I encourage you to explore your options.
There are plenty of online editing tools that can help you get on track, at least in the beginning phases of the editorial process, such as proofreading grammar snafus and catching the repetition of words or phrases. While the revision process of shuffling your story around or strengthening your characters will be up to you to find and craft, these tools can help you get in the rhythm of making needed changes in your writing.
Stage Your Perfect Editing Strategy
You can’t jump into the editing process blindly. Well, you can, but how well has that worked out for you in the past?
Sketch out how you want this experience to go. How much time can you commit each day and each week to this process? What do you want to accomplish during each session? Try to schedule out goals for each editing session so that the revision process stays on track.
Too anxious to plan this out? Try my free editing guide for writers who hate to edit.
What things do you do before editing your writing? Share your strategy in the comments section below.