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Writing Tip #21: Editing Your Work with Fresh Eyes

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Image source: Free-Photos on Pixabay, edited with GIMP

Let's Talk About Editing

Editing is a necessary part of being a writer. However, it is typically a separate process from the fun and creative aspect of writing. Eager to get their writing out there for people to see, some writers disregard the importance of this critical step.

“I’m a writer. Why should I edit my work?”

This is a quote from nowhere in particular. But it’s a question I imagine developing writers ask themselves. Why? Because when I read posts that are full of typos, grammatical issues and other problems, it is the only explanation I can think of.

Writing Brain vs. Editing Brain

Did you know that it takes a different part of your brain to edit than it does to write? It’s true. The brain is divided into two hemispheres. From a simplistic perspective, the right side of the brain is creative and artistic, and the left side of the brain is more analytical.

Good writing requires both the right brain (creativity) and the left brain (analytical). Once your right brain has worked hard to develop a draft, the left brain must assess its qualities, find its shortcomings, and determine where the work can be improved.

Highly skilled writers may be able to slip back and forth between writing and editing easily, but it's very difficult to do effectively, especially for newer writers.

One of the best approaches you can take is to step away from your writing for a bit. You will then be able to see it with fresh eyes, and it is far more likely you will see grammatical mistakes and what needs to be improved from a storytelling perspective.

The Importance of Editing

It's common to feel good about what you write when you complete a draft. And you should. It's an achievement. But a draft is just a draft. That is one step in the process of developing a good story. Even famous writers need to edit their work to improve their writing.

“Why is editing my writing important?”

I will answer this question with questions for you to ask yourself:

  • Do you care about people’s opinion of your writing?
  • Do you want people to actually read what you write?
  • Do you want them to automatically want to open and read your stories in the future because they were rewarded with a good experience the last time they did so?
  • Do you want to receive good upvotes because your content is worthy of rewards?

If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” then you have answered the question as to why it is important.

The problem with unedited writing...

Writing that is full of mistakes is distracting. The intent and the creativity are often lost behind sentences that are hard to follow and grammatical errors that make the content hard to read.

We have a unique situation here on our social blockchain in that we are primarily writing very short fiction for an audience with limited attention span. There’s so much good content here on Hive that in essence, we are competing for air time.

If you don’t fix the obvious errors in your writing, you are basically doing a disservice to your readers AND yourself.

How to Edit Your Creative Writing

There are plenty of professional editing guides online, especially for novels. My set of recommendations here are going to be very simple, so you can use these as a kind of checklist. This checklist assumes that we are talking about short fiction.

  1. Step away from your writing for a little while. If you write it and post it immediately without taking a break from it, you will miss your mistakes. You need to let your mind shift from right brain to left brain.
  2. Read your content with a fresh perspective. Try to imagine reading it for the first time, as any other reader would.
  3. Ask yourself whether it has an attention-grabbing opening. This is critical if you want people to read past the first few lines. Remember - you are trying to get their attention.
  4. Does the story have a “story arc”? Good stories have a challenge for the character to overcome and the process of trying to overcome that challenge creates the arc of the story. This gets the reader interested in the outcome. Read more about story arcs in Writing Tip #8: What Is a Story Arc?.
  5. Does the story make the reader think and feel; does it have an impact?
  6. Does the story have a satisfying resolution?
  7. Have you checked to make sure that you are writing in the proper tense, and not changing between past tense and present tense? For more information about tense see Writing Tip #20: Lessons in Tense Part 1.
  8. Have you checked for spelling and grammar errors? See the special tip below on how to check for spelling and grammar problems.

Almost all of these are things you can detect and fix if you re-read your story after you take a break. Sometimes it’s still difficult. When it really matters - for example of you are trying to really shine as a writer, or you are trying to win a contest - then it is a must to have someone else read your work and tell you where the story is not working, or if they see errors.

Special Tips for Spelling and Grammar

Writing is a labor of love. When you’ve made the effort to write a story, do yourself and your readers a favor, and don’t skip over the important step of checking for spelling and grammar mistakes.

If you don't naturally have a flair for grammar, or English is your second language, you may be at a bit of a disadvantage, but it is not an insurmountable problem.

Here are free tools to help:

  • If you write in Google docs, which is a free online writing app available with any Google membership, you have access to Google docs at docs.google.com. It is not perfect, but it will often underline grammatical errors and suggest a fix, and it will tell you when you have misspelled a word.
  • Another free tool is grammarcheck.net. There is a free version that allows you to drop in your text to check it. If you are a professional writer, you might want to pay for the advanced service at grammarcheck.net or an even nicer tool - grammarly.com. But the free tools will help considerably!

The bottom line is that when you care about your writing, and the experience of your readers, it shows. By contrast, if you are lazy about checking your own work for grammar and spelling errors, that shows too. The best rewards and the most dedicated following will go to those who care!

Happy writing!

@jayna, writer and moderator at The Ink Well.

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If you're looking to up your fiction game and reach that next level, check out my past writing tips linked below.

Writing Tip #1: Writing from a Prompt

Writing Tip #2: Adding Conflict

Writing Tip #3: Writing What You Know

Writing Tip #4: Avoiding the Dreaded Info Dump

Writing Tip #5: Is ‘Show Don’t Tell’ a Writing Rule?

Writing Tip #6: How Fiction Writing Is Like Weaving

Writing Tip #7: Put It On the Page

Writing Tip #8: What Is a Story Arc?

Writing Tip #9: Should You Plot Your Story?

Writing Tip #10: Don’t Start a Story This Way!

Writing Tip #11: What Is “Writing Voice”?

Writing Tip #12: Reveal Everything and Nothing

Writing Tip #13: Character Types in Fiction

Writing Tip #14: Clichés - Avoid the Conspiratorial Wink

Writing Tip #15: Developing Memorable Characters

Writing Tip #16: Writing Character Descriptions

Writing Tip #17: Overcoming Writer’s Block

Writing Tip #18: Don’t Be a Copycat (Plagiarism is Wrong)

Writing Tip #19: Hook Your Readers

Writing Tip #20: Lessons in Tense Part 1

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We would like to invite lovers of poetry and short stories to visit The Ink Well, a Hive community started by @raj808 and run by @shanibeer @stormlight24 with support from moderators including @carolkean and @jayna.

Also, with the advent of https://hive.vote/ it is now possible to follow The Ink Well curation trail on Hive blockchain. It works just the same as steemauto; simply navigate to the curation trail section and search for theinkwell (all one word with no @ symbol) and our trail will pop up as an option.

Similarly delegations are possible on Hive using the fantastic https://peakd.com/ Hive Blockchain front end. If you wish to delegate to @theinkwell that supports creative writing on Hive by voting all of our contributors, you can do this from the wallet section of https://peakd.com/

A big thank you to all our delegations from:
@felt.buzz @riverflows @trucklife-family @kaelci and @raj808.

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