Becoming Your Own Editor

I do a lot of posts about editing on this blog, it’s no secret. To be honest, I have been feeling kind of lost lately because I haven’t done one in a while. There must be something real off in the universe, right? But have no fear, Bustle answered my cry for help this morning. Rachel Krantz reads essay submissions for Bustle and also conducts monthly writing seminars/workshops for their writers and freelancers alike. It is very safe to say that she has completely immersed herself in every part of the writing process, for better or worse. Her last seminar focused on self-editing (insert happy dance here). It is actually one of the more helpful articles I have stumbled upon when it comes to editing, giving me even more of a reason to share it with you.

I don’t want this advice to replace hiring a professional editor. If you have room in your budget to hire professional help, I would still highly recommend it. I’m also in touch with reality enough to know this isn’t possible for everyone, making self-editing one of your prime concerns because you simply don’t have a choice. Whether you are writing a news article, an essay, a short story, or a novel editing can seriously make or break you. You can have an awesome story, but if the reader/editor evaluating your writing can’t get through a few pages (or lines) without finding structural or grammatical errors your writing is automatically going in the ‘trash’ pile. It may not seem fair, but it’s really hard for someone to connect with your writing when all they can think about are the mistakes that keep popping up. Despite if they are easy fixes or not, most editors aren’t going to be willing to work with you if they can’t connect with your story.


Below you will find some advice from Rachel’s seminar, but you should really check it out for yourself too:

  1. Get your FAME on.

Rachel created an acronym for the process of self-editing before you even start writing, she calls it FAME.

Free Write: Designate a certain amount of time and just sit down and basically barf up your story in any way, shape, or form possible. Just write whatever comes to mind. Don’t stop and most importantly, don’t think. Just write.

Account For Your Details: Look for patterns. Words that repeat themselves and themes that keep reoccurring. Highlight those details.

Map Your Arc: Create a general map of your story. It will be helpful to know where you are starting, what your climax is going to be, and where you will end up.

Expect An Audience: Figure out who your audience is before you start writing. Also, make an ideal word count. Different forms of writing, different age groups, and different genres all have different ‘ideal’ word counts. It’s best to figure that out before you start writing.

2. Embrace the first edit with questions.

How nice would it be to only have to do one edit and then call it a day? That has to be every writer’s dream, right? Unfortunately, your first edit is going to be one of oh, I don’t know… 100? It might be helpful to approach your first edit with some questions in mind, instead of focusing on just finding the mistakes. I bet there are many areas that could still be developed, cut down, or made clearer. Your first edit is the best place to tackle these problems. That’s why Rachel provides key questions on content, form, and length for you to think about. It’s important to get these issues resolved as early as possible.

3. Walk away.

Once you complete your first edit, walk away from your writing for a few days. Work on something else, treat yourself to a reward, or pick up that book you have been dying to read. Give yourself some time to digest all the work you have done so you will be able to come back to it with a clear mind.

4. Conquer the second edit and so on.

During your second edit, make sure to revisit the same questions you asked yourself during you first edit. Make sure you still feel the same way about them. Rachel also poses some new questions for you to think about to make sure you are still following your original intended track.

5. Recruit a friend.

Ask a friend to read it through. A fresh set of eyes can often save your writing. Sometimes we become blind to the one thing that really needs our attention because we are so busy making sure our overall message is delivered. You might even want to give them the questions that Rachel suggests, so they can think about them while reading.

Self-editing is scary, let’s just admit it. But, with a little help from people who have been there we will be able to get through it, hopefully with the same amount of hair on our head as when we started. Write on.

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