Three Ultra-Fast Ways to Better Self- Editing

Larch, by Grohar

Are you ready to be a better self-editor? If the world is still here on December 22, writers everywhere will no doubt wake up and realize that the wagon loads of words they created in a white-hot heat are now fermenting on the page. Here’s how to help!
Writing Tip for Today: Self-editing is a required skill for writers. Try working some wonders with your prose by utilizing these three simple tips:

  • Look for “ings.” Scan through a section of work, and highlight all the multi-syllable words ending with “ing.” These are often accompanied by some form of the verb “to be.” EX: He was walking into the library. To tighten, eliminate the was and use the simple past tense form of the verb. EX: He walked into the library. Try to avoid beginning a sentence with an “ing” word–the action and meaning is slowed and the reader still has to process each part of the sentence separately.
  • Get Specific. The other day Miss Crankypants wrote a sentence that read, “like a snake who’s just swallowed one of those giant rats from South America.” Shame on Miss CP! She could have saved a lot of words by writing instead: like a snake who’s just swallowed a capibarra. The specific is usually better than the general. Concrete Sensory Detail (CSD) demands particular words. By directing your reader to the particular, you allow her to enter into the experience you’re describing.
  • Contractions, Pronouns and Homophones, Oh My! A writer who never uses a contraction sounds affected. A writer who constantly repeats a character’s name instead of using a pronoun is irritating. And a writer who misuses words that sound alike but are spelled differently needs to stop relying on spell check! For all but the most formal of writings, contractions help bring the camera closer to the reader, adding a layer of familiarity and relaxation to the prose. Character’s names need not be repeated unless there is another person of same gender in the scene. Remember when your mom called you by your full given name? You were in trouble! And readers don’t want to keep repeating a character’s name either.

Try these simple remedies for tighter, smoother prose that keeps readers reading! What tends to be a part of writing where you struggle with editing your own work?

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.

2 comments on “Three Ultra-Fast Ways to Better Self- Editing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *