Revising and editing your work may be more important than the original writing itself. These tips for editing and revising your article or book manuscript apply to all types of writing: magazine feature articles, short stories, chapters, novels, scripts, essays, and even songs.
Before the tips, a writing quip from Annie Proulx, author of The Shipping News:
“The book is a perfect form, a physical thing that you can carry with you, that survives power outages and doesn’t need batteries. It’s simple, it’s aesthetically pleasing, and you can use it again and again.”
Before a book can become a perfect physical form, it needs to be revised and edited – perhaps dozens of times! These tips for revising and editing your writing are based on Monica Wood’s The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration & New Ideas for Writing – a Writer’s Digest book.
Tips for Revising and Editing Your Writing
Make sure your article or book chapter contains a rise and fall. Not every event in your story should get equal weight.
- Ask if you can follow the emotional line of the piece. Make sure it makes sense. And, accept that editing your article or book manuscript may involve major revisions.
Ensure your article isn’t too obviously constructed (too formulaic) to deliver an emotional wallop.
- Triple check that there are no factual inaccuracies in your nonfiction articles or book manuscripts. Refuse to trust your memory when you’re editing your writing!
Make sure your characters – whether fictional or real – are sympathetic, with motives that are recognizable, understandable, and believable. When you’re revising your writing, you need to let go of your attachment to the piece.
- Don’t just tell your readers about your characters and setting; imply some information. Editing your writing involves leaving something to the imagination for readers.
Plant a universal truth in your article or book manuscript…something that resonates beyond itself, something that readers can relate to.
- Ensure that the key points in the article or key moments in the manuscript are given enough time. To revise your writing, you need to read it objectively.
Triple check that your point of view is consistent and well-chosen.
Make sure that your article or manuscript is valid as it stands – apart from the clever gimmicks (eg, an article as a diary or a book manuscript without any punctuation). When you’re editing your writing, you need to make sure your content is solid.
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- Figure out what’s most interesting about this article or manuscript – and why it’s so interesting – and stay focused on that key point.
Make sure you’ve used active verbs, correct grammar, proper spelling, and strong sentence structure (these tips on revising your writing shouldn’t need to be pointed out – but many writers including me need this reminder!).
- Force yourself to face what you don’t want to know: the lead of your article doesn’t hook readers, or the final chapter in your book manuscript is a big yawn. Revising your writing requires you to face your demons.
When you’re editing your article or manuscript, ask yourself: Is this really the final version, the one to which you’ll be proud to attach your name? Or does it need a few weeks to settle before your pronounce it “finished”?
To learn more, read Writing Techniques That Make Words Come Alive.
If you have any questions or tips on revising or editing your writing, please comment below!