I much prefer editing others. Of course, as a writer, this is a poor attitude to take, but this morning I was suddenly oppressed by this inevitable truth – so I figured, f*$! it, deal.
Now that’s off my chest, I feel it imperative to inflict, er, establish a few rules to ensure that my self-editing is as thoughtful as the editing I do for others. At least I hope it’s thoughtful – otherwise why would these people keep promoting me?
Self-Editing Rules 101
- Ensure there is enough time post writing to ruminate on the final product. 24 hours or more is ideal for 2,000 words or less. More words need more time.
- Continually remind self of the purpose of the piece. What does the audience want/need? Perhaps more important, what don’t they want/need?
- Show don’t tell. An oldie but a goodie.
- Read aloud. Preferably alone to avoid strange looks/embarrassment. This adds that *kisses finger tips* to dialogue and can facilitate better pacing.
- Maintain a solid 360 perspective. Odd/creative leads should circle back to the end a la Family Circle. Never leave the reader like, WTF?
- Packaging is key. Whether it’s the visuals, the sidebars or non-text elements, readers today are very sophisticated. On the web? Make it hot – add links or photos. If the work is in print, break up the text with something, the more compelling the better. Think value add.
Of course there are a billion and one great editing rules, but these are foundational. I suppose an unofficial rule would be to be kind. But writers are rarely easy on themselves. Not if they’re good.