Edit Slow: Revise in Layers

Last week, we used my awesome friend and prolific author Melody Carlson to showcase the “write fast” technique. When you put on your editor hat, however, it’s probably better to slow down.
Writing Tip for Today: Write Fast. Edit Slow. Revise in layers. What does this mean?

  • Let your Work Rest. If possible, set aside your “fast-written” work for at least a few days. Weeks or a month is better. This will give you time to cultivate the needed distance you need to edit in a more objective way. That paragraph you wrote in a white-hot heat–and thought it was the most beautiful paragraph you ever created–may look a little purple or overwritten after you’ve let your work alone for awhile. If you wish to see your work as a reader might, give it a rest and then READ IT ALOUD. You’ll see things you never saw before.
  • Separate Rewriting into Categories. Maybe at one session you’ll “search and Destroy” all excess modifiers such as “ly” words or vague words, over-descriptive phrases and melodramatic over-the-top writing. It’s OK. No one else need know you chew the scenery in your drafts. Another time, read through only concentrating on the story. Is it logical? Is it written in scene? Who’s on stage and why? Does it move the story? By not trying to revise everything at once, you can be more effective in one area.
  • It Ain’t Over. Revision can (and probably should be) a long process for most of us. Writers like Melody Carlson don’t do much rewriting, but the rest of us mortals will not only be polishing with every revision pass, we help ourselves learn the writing craft. Don’t be discouraged if you give self-editing your best shot, think it’s perfect and then watch in horror as a pro editor rips your story into shreds. This is normal. This is necessary. If you want to write, you’ll have to learn the process. And by editing slow, you’ll have plenty of time to do it.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

6 comments on “Edit Slow: Revise in Layers

  1. Write Fast & Edit Slow… This rings true for me thus far. My edits go in layers. I work from macro to micro. I work on the over all story plot then then down from there. The “ly” words and then beautify the sentences come much later for me. I must be soooo “human” because I do lots and lots and lots of edits!

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