Editing is a learned skill that takes time to develop. It takes a steady hand and a large dose of perfectionism. This is the time to interrogate every paragraph, every sentence, every word, to ensure it has earned its space on the page. And there are a number of tried and tested ways that can help us on our editing journey. I hope some of the following help.
- Put the work away for a while.
As writers it is easy for us to get too close to our work. We know the story so well that we stop being able to see the mistakes on the page. Often, putting your work away for a week, a month, a year or longer enables us to see it with fresh eyes when we pick it up again.
- Try using a different font.
It might sound crazy, but words look different in a different font. Try switching to a font you don’t usually use and see if it enables you to see your work in a new way.
- Read the work out loud.
Just find somewhere quiet to do it first! Reading your work aloud allows you to literally hear the rhythm and beats in your words. You will often find you can instinctively hear when a paragraph needs something more, or less. Trust your instinct, it is usually right. If you are brave you could read your work out at a writing workshop, or even an open-mic poetry night. Don’t worry if your hands shake the first few times, we’ve all been through that one. Good luck!
- Ask someone else to give you feedback.
It’s scary showing your work to somebody else, particularly somebody whose opinion you value, but sharing our work is an essential part of being a writer and this is a great place to start. Find somebody you trust (preferably not a family member because they tend to tell you everything you write is amazing, which is flattering but not especially helpful to honing your craft), give them time to read your work, and accept their feedback gratefully. Remember they are providing feedback on your work, not on you as a person. Your bestie can hate your poem and still be your bestie.