Be your own editor

william faulkner

William Faulkner

Writing is not something you do with a How-To manual open on a certain page. It is difficult at times but when your plot finally comes together, or your character comes to life and starts to speak his own heart language—and it just sounds so much better than the one you tried to put in his mouth—then it is worth every bit of effort and frustration up to that point.

There is one thing, however, that you can learn by the book and apply to your writing—and that is editing. There is no art to editing, just simple common sense rules that you can follow in order to prepare your book for publishing:

  1. Use Spellcheck wisely: Spellcheck is just a handy tool, nothing more. You will get far more benefit from using the LANGUAGE option in your REVIEW menu. This description may seem lengthy, but worth trying: Select LANGUAGE PREFERENCES and then select PROOFING in the bar on the left. Find where WRITING STYLE gives you two options and select GRAMMAR & STYLE. Right next to this option is a SETTINGS button. Click on it and a long list of options will come up. Now select everything except CONTRACTIONS, PASSIVE SENTENCES, and USE OF FIRST PERSON. Click OK on the screen and try it out. This may seem like a long-winded exercise, but it will help you pick up on the many little foxes that come to spoil your story. You may want to deselect some other options in the list when they continue to cramp your style. For instance, we all begin sentences with And or But, so you may want to deselect that one too. This is a great exercise to help you learn to write more fluently and without the many errors that we make without thinking.
  2. Next, read your writing aloud. The ear is often a far better editor than the eye and you will quickly ‘hear’ the awkward sentences and pick up on missing words or repetition that can be sorted easily enough.
  3. Only proofread/edit small sections at a time. When you bite off more than your brain can chew, your brain goes into neutral and skips over the little errors. Set aside a time in the day when you are rested and alert – mornings are always good for this task, provided you are a morning person. You will quickly discover your own perfect editing-zone.
  4. Get a list of common word choice errors that you may struggle with and study it. Common words include principal/principle, they’re/their, its/it’s, he’s/his etc. Once you have overcome this problem that is common to writers, you will produce far better writing as far as editing is concerned.
  5. Relax. Yes, relax! Put your manuscript away for a week or two if it is creeping you out. Come back to it with fresh eyes and you will remember what got you started in the first place.

Above all, remember that some of the world’s greatest books were not well edited to begin with, so you will always be in good company. Just keep writing.

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