Image courtesy:

To write is human, to edit is divine 

– Stephen King

1. Create distance 

Before tackling the difficult task of editing your work, create some distance first – between yourself and your important manuscript. Give it the gift of of time. Step away for a pre designated time from your work. It could be sleeping over your article or putting it aside for a week. For a longer piece of work, a few weeks might be required for you to look at the work with fresh eyes. 

Metaphorically, create a distance by working on another project or piece of writing. Periodically, take a look at your resting manuscript. When you are surprised by what you have written, by the style or the pace or the narration, it is time to take out the editing pens. 

2. Listen to your instincts 

Once you start reading your work and are getting ready to cut out sentences and passages or to rewrite, focus on what you feel is right and how some things do not sound right. It could be a character that you have spent days crafting meticulously but she still does not sound authentic. Some scenes might seem forced and certain parts may feel too drawn out and boring. Make a note of whatever it is that you feel instinctively to be in need of improvement. 

Technically, or going by the book, you might have done well in creating a conflict in the story and in resolving it towards the end. Yet, if it sounds false to your ears, it is time to take a second and a closer look. 

3. Identify the Story 

The story or the underlying premise of your article is the reason you are writing. For a piece of fiction, it is the story that is paramount. The themes, the recurring motifs, the setting, are all secondary to what you have set out to tell. Even if it is a slice of life or a stream of consciousness kind of work, pare it down to its bare bones, strip away the meat and find out if the barest version makes any sense. 

Remember that the first draft is usually telling yourself the story and it is only for you, the writer and the creator. At the next part of editing and rewriting, the ‘other’ or the reader comes in. This is where you examine the story to see if there is coherence underneath the words and the imagery and the setting and the action. 

4. Keep the Joy 

It is easy to get disheartened when you come back to your supposed literary masterpiece after a while. It could look insipid or an uninspired piece of writing and there would be many many things that you can see are wrong. The basic plot may be disjointed, the storyline unoriginal. The characters may seem to be mere caricatures and the pace may be in jerks and starts. This is the time when you can easily get disheartened and abandon your work, thinking that no amount of rewriting can improve it. And yet, it is never a good idea to let go of any writing just because it does not seem imaginative enough or technically sound at that point of time. 

Take a deep breath and think back of the joy that you experienced while creating the first draft. Think of the sense of potential and the plethora of possibilities that you felt while putting down on paper your wildest thoughts and deepest emotions. Will back the joy and you would get your sense of purpose back. 

What things do you keep in mind when you are editing your own work? Please share your tips and tricks. 

This listicle is part of Friday Listicles, a weekly feature that professes our love for anything that is presented in a numbered or bulleted form, paving the way for a happy weekend. 

10 thoughts on “4 Surprising Tips for Self Editing your Writing 

  1. I so agree with all of your points. Creating a distance between us and our work makes it a lot easier to do the editing. And yes, we must wade through the uninspired times to be able to take our manuscripts to their rightful places.

    Kudos on an extremely well-written article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure that you do all these things and more when you edit your work. And that is why the end product turns out to be so good, as evidenced by your excellent blog posts and your writing elsewhere.
      Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “Creating distance” seems to allow space for prose to flourish and take on life during the initial writing – maybe because it lets the left-brain step out of the way while you create. I have noticed that editing does seem to need to come “after” the writing for me, and usually as a distinctly separate process. My shrubs grow better if I let them grow and do their thing first. Then I go after them with the clippers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I loved the metaphor of the shrubs, Chris.
      You have described the process so accurately, of the left brain stepping out of the way when we try to revive ourselves creatively.
      Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing your thoughts.


  3. I must read aloud– and preferably to someone else. Distance is a good one too. Frankly the pressure of posting on WordPress also helps me be a bit better than I would be on my own sharing with no one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is very useful advice – reading aloud our work. It does put things in perspective.
      And yes, I too am grateful for my blog which helps me improve my writing through sharing.
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s