A Primer on Editing Your Own Writing

Some writers write everything down as it comes to them, then go back and rework and edit their work once they’ve got the first draft written. Other writers edit as they write because that’s how they capture ideas as they come to them.

Whichever way you write, here’s a primer on editing your own writing.

  • Read your opening and ask yourself if it’s interesting to the reader, if it grabs the reader enough to make the reader want to read on.
  • Go over each paragraph with the idea that you need to cut out 10 percent to improve that paragraph. You may be able to make the cut or you may not, but at least you tried to tighten up each paragraph.
  • Keep your reader in mind–always. When I taught writing for publication classes at the college, I asked my students, “Who do you write for–yourself? your reader? the person who decides whether or not to buy (or represent in case of an agent) your writing?” Ask yourself that same question as you go back through your writing and see if you were consistent in writing for your intended reader.
  • Be honest with yourself about the flow of your writing. Your piece should move smoothly and carry your reader along without jarring your reader.
  • Speak your written words out loud (especially dialogue) so you can determine if the words you’ve written are conversational and natural sounding when the reader hears them in his/her head.
  • Understand that self-editing isn’t about ego or impressing anyone. It’s about common sense and working toward writing something others want to read and maybe even recommend to others.

This little primer could be a good start for you to learn to self-edit. Have fun with it. Happy writing!

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