Ten Editing Tricks to Make Your Writing Shine

Ten Editing Tricks to Make Your Writing Shine

Matthew Gurteen

Editing can be daunting for any writer, whether they are just beginning or are finishing their tenth novel. It is something that every writer has to do, though. This article will give you our ten tips and tricks to make editing your next novel, short story, or poem easier. If you follow these tips, your writing will shine in no time!

1. Take a break before editing

As easy as it is to start editing your novel, short story, or poem straight away, sometimes distance is the best editing trick to make your writing shine. Taking a break, no matter how long, between your first draft and editing will help you identify previously overlooked problems. You can then approach the work as if it is new to you, providing a much-needed critical perspective. As Charles Finch, author of A Beautiful Blue Death and The Vanishing Man, says, There’s no page of prose in existence that its author can’t improve after it’s been in a drawer for a week. The same is true on the macro level – every time I finish a story or a book, I try to put it away and forget it for as long as I can. When I return, its problems are often so obvious and easy to fix that I’m amazed I ever struggled with them. Try leaving your story or poem in a drawer for a week to find those obvious problems!

2. Edit more than once

This tip is essential whether you are a beginner or a professional creative writer. Editing is a continuous process, and you are unlikely to catch every mistake in one edit. Instead, try editing the text once, paying attention to your overall story or one specific character. In your next edit, move on to another character, or pay attention to spelling and grammar. Taking editing one aspect at a time will really make your writing shine.

3. Take your time

Similarly, do not rush your editing. If editing is a process, it is best completed slowly. Racing through your editing will only lead to you missing mistakes. Taking your time, however, will make your writing shine, and readers can pick up on the care put into your work.

4. Read your work out loud

Another excellent editing tip to make your writing shine is reading it aloud. Reading your work to yourself will quickly reveal its mistakes and inconsistencies. If you struggle reading it aloud, your reader will likely find it challenging to read it too. No matter what the text is, it should be readable, so this step is crucial when editing.

5. Read it in front of others too

Similar to the last trick, reading your work to others will also make editing more manageable and your writing shine. As well as revealing the inconsistencies to yourself, reading your work to others will provide external feedback. Try joining a writing group or reading your work to your family or friends for their honest opinion. They may raise an issue you hadn’t previously considered and advise you on how to fix it.

6. Be as straightforward as possible

This point is arguably one of the goals of good editing rather than a trick, but it is worth mentioning anyway. When editing, try and make everything as clear as possible. Whether it is a character’s speech, narration, or descriptions, your reader should be able to follow your words without difficulty. If you have even the slightest suspicion that the person speaking is unclear or that a sentence could be confusing, change it. Your writing does not need to have layers of meaning. In fact, it is better if it doesn’t if it is unreadable.

7. Condense as much as possible

Making your writing as straightforward as possible also involves cutting unnecessary words or passages. Another editing trick to make your writing shine is to cut as much as possible. Break your story down to its minimum components. If you have written something irrelevant to the story, it does not need to be there. Your writing will shine when your message is clear, and condensing your word count achieves this.

8. Use a thesaurus

Finding alternate words to your common choices is another editing trick that will make your writing shine. When editing, try not to use the same word more than once unless you have to. Consider investing in a thesaurus or check for similar words online to add variety to your writing. If, when editing, you feel like you have used a word too much, scan the document for that word. You can then replace it with another.

9. Note the length of your lines/paragraphs

Whether you are only editing a short poem or are working on an epic novel, you should always take care to check the length of your lines or paragraphs. Readers should be able to follow your lines and paragraphs easily. If one is longer or shorter than the rest, this will stand out. It may be that this is your intention, in which case, there is no problem. If a line or paragraph stands out to you for its length, try combining it with another or separating it into two to make your writing shine.

10. Note how you begin lines/paragraphs

Our final tip is similar to the last one. As well as noting the length of your lines and paragraphs, pay attention to how you start them, too. Many writers unknowingly start their paragraphs with identical words and sentences. If you find yourself doing this, consider breaking out your thesaurus again and finding other ways to begin. This editing tip will help your writing flow easier and shine.

These ten tips and tricks should significantly improve your next novel, short story, or poem.