Editing

Editing

Most of us have heard the phrase, ‘to see things with fresh eyes’. It refers to the ability to observe things differently once we have distanced ourselves (physically and/or emotionally) from them.

The changed perception may relate to:
  • a heated disagreement that appears minor when all the details are known,
  • what appeared to be the perfect colour choice of paint for a wall, but which after a few days away, obviously clashes with the carpet,
  • a new pair of shoes that you thought looked fantastic till a friend suggested you look more closely at your reflection.

In truth the phrase might relate to almost anything in our lives, but never more so than to writing.

It’s easy to become engrossed in what we write. In fact, it’s necessary. After all, if we are not interested in it as the creator, how can we expect it to hold the attention of a reader?
Yet once the article, book or poem is finished, we need to look:
  • past our emotional attachment,
  • past what we think we have covered to what we have actually explained,
  • past having read the manuscript more than 30 times already,
  • past our own opinions on our writing skills.
We need to see the work in the same detached way that a reader or publisher would.

We need to recognise things like if the description is overdone, if the entire point has been missed, if ‘they’re’ has been written instead of ‘their’, if all the commas and apostrophes are in the right place and if we have told a character’s feelings and not shown them. As a writer we need to be aware of any number of common writing mistakes that could result in a publisher returning our work rather than printing it.

Even if you’re lucky enough to have someone around who is capable, and willing, to critique your work, there’s still the need to notice these and other little faults yourself. And to do this, it is necessary to see your work with fresh eyes.

This in turn often requires us to read having switched from the creative to the logical side of our brain. A switch best done once the manuscript has been completed and one most easily done after putting the work away for a couple of days - or preferably a week or more.

Most of us have had the experience of coming across our own work jotted in a note book or at the back of a drawer, months or years after it has been written. We notice the words, the direction, the flow, the balance, the story line, and wonder, ‘did I really write that?’

Whether we think the work is good or bad, the distance of time has enabled us to look at the piece of writing and see it for what it is. And every piece of writing needs this change of perception, just as every writer deserves the opportunity to make their work the best it can be.

So don’t just finish the first draft of your work, skim through it for typos and badly written first sentences, then send it off to an editor, printer or whoever you were writing it for. Give yourself and your writing a chance to shine.
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