By Sarah K.

When you write something, whether it be an article (like this one) or a work of fiction, you almost always will edit it. It’s a struggle and many dislike it greatly, but it is a necessary evil in writing. Hopefully this article can help make it a little less painful.

1.    Wait a little before you start editing.

While sometimes it’s tempting to start editing your story right away, it’s not usually the best option, unless you are one of those few who can look at a scene they just wrote and see what needs to be filled out and taken away immediately. For me, the best option is to give it a little bit of time before I read it again and start working out the finer points. I find it gives me a clearer idea of what needs to be added or removed, since I didn’t create it moments ago. It also helps me find any grammar or spelling mistakes I made when writing!

2.    Let someone else read it.

I can’t stress enough how important this one is. It’s so useful to have an extra set of eyes in editing, to make sure you didn’t miss anything or to see a new perspective on it.

Also be sure to ask them what they thought was the best, what they felt they were skimming over, and what they felt was underdeveloped. Those specific questions can help you determine what you need to remove, keep, or add on to.

3.    Pick the piece that feels the most underwritten.

When you write something, there’s always going to be a piece that feels like there should be more to it. In the first draft, you’re just trying to write out everything, so you don’t give it too much thought, but now that you’re editing, expand on that idea. Take it a step or two farther, make it a little more interesting.

4.    Pick the piece that feels the most overwritten.

Just like there’s going to be bits that you feel you didn’t write enough on, there’s going to be places you feel you wrote too much about. Take those and trim out any irrelevant pieces. Did you describe that armchair a little too deeply, even though it is not being used? Shorten it, try not to monologue about that chair unless you’re going to sit in it.

5.    Always proofread your edits.

Edits can be just as messy as the first draft, so make sure to proofread to make sure those cursed spelling or grammar mistakes and irrelevant pieces of information don’t get accidentally put in your final piece. Like with your first draft, probably wait a little bit before reading through, unless you feel like something was a regrettable decision immediately after.

6.    Don’t feel you have to edit all at once.

Sometimes you feel you have to finish editing something all at once, but that is not true. If you feel motivated to, go for it, but never feel obligated to finish your changes all in one go. I find it makes things easier if I change the pieces I have ideas for and only those, then come back later for others.

7.    You don’t have to change the whole thing.

A piece of writing advice I hear is that when you are editing your first draft, you need to change the whole thing. While that may work for some, it’s not a one size fits all kind of thing, and can make it intimidating to edit your writing.

If you’re attached to what you have written, find the pieces you absolutely want to keep the same. There can be sentences, or paragraphs that don’t change. Keep in mind though, that the things you keep should probably be relevant to what you’re writing.

8.    Never compare yourself to professional authors.

While sometimes it’s tempting to look at a popular author’s writing and ask yourself why your writing doesn’t sound as polished and nice as theirs, you should know that they probably have plenty of professional editors and they and their editors don't just edit it once, it gets changed multiple times until it's polished and ready to be published. Also, most well known authors have many years of practice under their belt. It's not fair to compare yourself to them.

9.    If it won’t distract you too much, listen to music.

If I’m to be completely honest, editing can be maddening. Sitting and changing huge chunks of writing isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and can be really hard to focus on. What I’ve found helps me is listening to music to help me focus a little better. If I can’t hear the outside world, I can’t get too distracted. If you’re writing fiction, it might help to listen to a song you feel fits the scene you’re editing.

Hopefully this can help make editing your writing a little less painful and annoying. Happy writing!

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