To write is human, to edit is divine. — Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Effective editing can be the difference between success and failure. Mistakes are the biggest reasons that readers do not re-visit content from writers. You have one chance to make a first impression. A reader will soon be put off if the post is littered with mistakes.
Every writer has been plagued by a grammar detective. Some mistakes are inevitable, we are only human. However, you should try to adopt a good editing practice.
As with all writers, I make mistakes and I am always grateful for the kind person who drops me a personal note to say I got it wrong. Personal notes are fine, I would advise against making this a public comment.
Writers enjoy the feeling of finally completing the first draft. However, now is when the real work starts. Turning the rough draft into a polished article. Let articles sit for a couple of days, before doing the final edit and publishing. If you have ,time constraints, I would advise letting it sit for a couple of hours at the least.
The First Draft
It is important to state, your first draft should be a conscious outpouring of ideas. Write your first draft without stopping. Without looking for facts or checking, get all the ideas down to the conclusion.
If you can’t think of a phrase or word but a question mark or TK if you are writing on Medium. If you want to add quotes say where, never stop to search for them during your first draft.
The first draft of everything is shit — Ernest Hemingway
Read for Flow and Content
Your first step in editing is to read through your first draft. Look for places where the writing does not flow. Places where you have used the wrong word. If your brain works faster than your fingers, then these mistakes could be numerous.
Fill in any spaces where you have left notes or TKs. Find those quotes and phrases you couldn’t think of during the first draft.
If this is the editing of a novel, I advise, you read it in as few sittings as you can.
Once this is completed then cut and paste the article into Hemingway. I have spoken about Hemingway before and the huge positive impact it has had on my writing. Hemingway will tell you where your sentence is too long. Where you have used too many passive words. It generally acts as a friendly editor sitting on your shoulder.
Take full advantage of everything Hemingway offers. However, remember this is your piece of work. If a suggestion does not feel right then don’t use it. During this read-through, read the piece at a slower speed, look for all the places you have used the wrong word. This can happen when you get caught up in the writing.
With Hemingway’s help, take out the waffle and add the description, if needed. Large portions of your original draft may well end up on the editor’s floor, or in this case the recycle bin.
Try to vary the length of your sentences. This varied length will keep the pace of the article. All long sentences and readers will get turned off, too short and your post will have no depth.
Grammar and Spelling
When this is complete, copy and paste the article into Grammarly to work on grammar and spelling. I use the free version of both these packages, for me they offer enough.
A word of warning with Grammarly, you need to read what suggestions it makes carefully. Some of them will not be suitable for your piece. Remember to always use your judgement when needed. Generally speaking, this is an excellent program, that has saved my blushes on more than one occasion.
There are several ways you can access Grammarly, through the website, application or as a plug-in on some internet browsers.
Once this is complete then you need to read the piece throughout loud, if you have not done this before. There is something about reading it out loud that helps you catch all the other mistakes.
This will also show you where the flow of the article could do better. If you don’t want to read aloud, then use a program that will read the article for you. Follow through as the article is read and make your changes.
This for me is the most essential part of the editing process and one that many writers ignore.
Producing the piece
Once again if possible leave the piece for a day before returning to it.
During this edit, put it into the format you want. Add the quotes, headers, sub-headings and finishing touches. The aesthetics of the article are as important as the content.
Use this time to add links to your research and claim your sources. Remember you can also add links to your past work. This is an excellent way to re-energise posts that may have been forgotten about.
There may be times when you get to stage four of editing and change the article completely. If this change is dramatic you may have to revisit steps 2 and 3. Don’t be afraid to take this extra time to produce something you are proud of.
You owe it to your readers to respect their time and only give them quality pieces to read. Don’t rush your writing, to keep up with a publishing schedule you have designed. Followers and readers are the most important metric for your writing. Respect yours and provide them with complete work that is highly polished.