The writing process is different for everyone, but there are ways to streamline your approach to make it easier and more enjoyable to arrive in front of the computer.
When to Edit
As you write your first draft, you may feel compelled to edit as you go. This may work for some, but it becomes a laborious process as you interrupt your flow. Do you need to research something? Leave it for later. Your job is to get the manuscript done. Save the editing for afterward. You’ll find yourself finished with a draft sooner, and the edits may be more impactful once you have the full manuscript.
When you revise your manuscript, you aren’t just catching typos or grammar mistakes, but you’ll also ensure your concepts are fleshed out. This is why revising while you write can feel tedious and make the writing clunky. You are too close to the material and the ideas are still swirling in your mind.
Once you have a finished draft you should wait at least a couple of weeks to a month to revisit the writing. The time and space will help you catch any mistakes and help you look at the writing in an impartial manner.
Where to Edit
If you wrote your manuscript on a computer screen, it is helpful to print the entire manuscript out and to revise the paper copy. Not only will it offer a needed respite from the computer screen, but you’ll be able to catch more of what isn’t working within the manuscript. You’ll be able to edit the manuscript as a whole rather than focusing on one or two pages at a time. This may also be helpful when considering reorganizing the different sections in your manuscript.
Make a trip to the library where you can spend time in a quiet space, free of distractions. If you left any parts blank as you wrote, because you needed to research them, now is the time! The librarians will be happy to help you with your research needs.
Editing the manuscript beginning to end will help you see the manuscript from a reader’s perspective. It will show you what may be missing, what needs to be expanded upon, or what can be compressed, and if the order of sections is clear within the manuscript. This is where you zoom out and edit the manuscript as a cohesive whole.
How to Edit
There are a few strategies one can try when revising their work alone. You can record yourself reading the manuscript and listen to it as an audiobook. While you listen, ask yourself the following questions: Where am I most interested? Where do I feel confused? Where do I lose interest? Where is the language ambiguous? Does my audience need to know more in this particular section? Am I repeating myself? These questions will help you look at the manuscript from a reader’s perspective.
While editing, read the work out loud. While we write, the concepts are forming in our head and we may not catch the duplicate or unclear sections that make it down on the page. By reading the work out loud you’ll be able to catch anything on the sentence-level, ensuring your writing is clear and concise.
Writing is a lonely process, but it doesn’t have to be! It is helpful to join a writing group who writes in the similar genre as you. Having another pair of eyes will help you revise for clarity. Helpful tip: You do not have to accept every suggestion a group offers, but do be open to what will make the manuscript better for readers.
You can also get advice on what is working and what is not within your manuscript from publishers through Exisle Academy’s manuscript review. Publishing professionals can assist in the marketability of your manuscript and help you with the next steps of revision, so you feel your manuscript is the best it can be.
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