Editing our own writing, whether it’s a book chapter, article or blog post, requires us to look at our own work with fresh eyes.
We need to leave the creative shoes of the writer behind and step into the critical, precise shoes of the editor. This is not an easy transition and often requires a great deal of practice for the so called “shoe to fit.”
Both of the photographs here are of the same beautiful bowl — the beautiful bowl of creation. In the first, zoomed-in view, it’s too close to appreciate any of the beauty. The second offers some much needed distance and perspective to take it all in.
And so it is with our writing and editing.
We write of what we know, what we’ve done, what we like writing about. Topics close to our hearts and events from the mental photo albums of our minds. We hope that the way we think of something can be conveyed onto paper as we write, but, do we ever really know? What happens as our stories travel from memory and brain wave to muscle to hand to pen or keyboard? We worry that something is lost and yet, we are too close to read it critically.
But we have a wonderful ability to change all that.
We can change our perspective.
We can put distance between our writing and our reading so that we can edit our own work.
When we review our own writing with a plan to edit it, too, we remain the writer, nonetheless. We cannot fully step away from that role. And so, we need some strategies to put distance between writer and editor; to broaden perspective and step back from what we write so that we can edit it:
- Put time and space between writing and editing. Allow as much time as possible between when you write and when you go back to edit your work. Whenever possible, overnight is helpful but do what you can, even if it is only a few hours. Some recommend letting your finished book draft sit a full month before you pick it back up. The time away from the content helps you let go of what you intended enough so that you can see it with fresh eyes when editing. It’s even suggested that you edit in a different place than the one in which you wrote.
- Print it out. If you created your writing digitally, print out a hard copy. Whether or not you print, change the font in style or size to alter the view enough to get your brain to consider it as something new.
- Read it aloud. By reading out loud, you’re now using another sense to evaluate your writing. It is often by hearing that you pick up on a section that seems too awkward or a word that is used too often. It’s a great way to examine the flow of your piece and even to gauge its length. It allows you to check for conversational writing…the kind of writing that works best!
- Read it as if someone else. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes and read it all the way through, as if you are that person that is not you reading material that you do not know. Take nothing for granted, like the meaning of a word or the meaning in the gaps between the words. If something is not straightforward, fix it! Replace jargon with clarity and add information when needed to explain things thoroughly and more clearly to an outsider. Then read it through again for another round!
- Ask someone else to read it. This can be someone in your family, young or old. It’s even better when it can be someone unfamiliar with the content. Ask them to be critical and comfortable sharing what they think.
When you’ve given yourself the gift of a new perspective, you give your writing a better chance of meeting someone else across the page. You connect with your readers as your words invite them to see things from your perspective!
How do you change your perspective when editing your writing? Please share in the comments.