By this point, we’ve put so much work into our stories, we believe there couldn’t be anything left to handle.
Everything is as it should be.
Then we edit.
Only to find our story doesn’t read as it should, things can be worded better, overused words and phrases that need to be cut or substitutions found…
Editing can be a huge mess, especially if you’ve never done it before.
It’s not always as easy as one might expect. Nor are the mistakes always obvious.
We know what we wrote and expect it to read as we remember it.
So we skim through our writing, catching a mistake here and there, but often missing key problems.
Our minds often fill in the blanks for missing words, especially in common phrases.
This is nothing more than a trick of the eyes.
Much like the word puzzles posted on the Internet where you read a paragraph where the letters are mixed, but you can still understand its meaning.
As long as the key letters are there, our minds can place them into familiar patterns.
The same occurs in a sentence; we often assume common words are there even when they’re not, such as to, for, the…
Making it easy for typos slip in where we least expect them.
It’s easier to find mistakes when we read our stories aloud.
We can find instances where we’ve substituted similar sounds or spellings, such as they’re and their, or team and teem.
Or places where we hit the wrong letter and created a different word, such as beat and neat, or pole and poke.
Spellchecks won’t catch them and if they’re too similar, we might not either if we’re reading silently.
But when read aloud, the tongue trips over them, and they sound out of place.
This is useful when reading dialogue as it is meant to be verbal, and mistakes are noticeable.
We all know how a conversation flows and feels when it is too stilted or awkward.
Very little gets past a sharp ear.
Reading aloud can also help us find the proper location for punctuation.
Readers need to digest the information, not have everything thrown at them at once.
They need room to pause and reflect, or a moment to catch their breath.
A sentence can read too fast or slow, and reading aloud allows us to adjust the pace to our reader’s needs.
And lastly, we can sense when things seem off and fix the cause.
Editing may seem more trouble than it’s worth.
But trust me, you’ll be happy you did it.
If you’re like me, you might find you’re long-winded and can accomplish more with less.
There is always room for improvement.
While your writing should be clean and concise, it should ultimately be YOU.
Edit to work within your individual style.
Never make edits unless they suit your purpose.
Choose what works for you and strengthens your stories.
It’s your writing. No one else’s.
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.