Personal Development

Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level

There’s a whole business dedicated to training people how to write. While there are a plethora of books and seminars promising to teach you how to turn a phrase or create a novel, one of the most crucial aspects of effective writing is frequently addressed either in passing or completely ignored: competent editing.

Course Overview

It’s difficult to edit your own work, but it’s a necessary skill to acquire if you want to be a great writer. After all, writing is about more than just generating a rough draft; what distinguishes the excellent from the exceptional is how the work progresses from a rough copy to a polished piece. And, as anybody who has attempted to revise a novel or memoir knows, it’s all too easy to get caught up in the details rather than see the broad picture, focusing on the trees but ignoring the forest until it becomes cumbersome and overpowering.

With the appropriate tools and perspective, the propensity to focus on the “small picture” rather than the “large picture” throughout the editing process may be addressed. Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level will help you with this. Molly McCowan, a book coach and editor, walks you through the self-editing process in 13 thorough sessions, utilizing a step-by-step technique that reduces overload and organizes the revision process in the most efficient way possible. Molly teaches you how to enhance character development, discover and resolve story flaws, construct stronger scenes, focus on seamless pacing and point-of-view difficulties, and elevate your skills by working from the large picture to the little picture of your work.

This course is designed to help you develop your narrative writing abilities in both fiction and nonfiction genres, including memoir, autobiography, biography, and personal essays. Molly’s suggestions and tools may assist any writer edit their own work with competence and confidence throughout the Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level course.

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Planning, Plotting, and Patience

When it comes to self-editing, you can’t be haphazard or piecemeal. Before you start polishing your phrases or obsessing about language, you need plan ahead. Anyone who has ever been frightened by the thought of rewriting hundreds of pages of writing understands the importance of having a strategy in place. Not only can organizing your editing process save you time and energy, but it will also result in a stronger final copy if you know what you need to work on and in what sequence.

Because truly successful editing happens in levels, having a firm understanding of these levels—their purpose and what they do for your work—is a must. Here’s how the four tiers work and what they look for in your writing:

  • Developmental Editing looks at your work as a whole piece, to ensure the largest elements—including characters, plot, structure, and pacing—fit and function together.
  • Line Editing focuses on the work at the sentence and paragraph levels. This is where you’ll address things like transitions, run-on sentences, wordiness, redundancy, syntax, rhythm, tense, and clichés, as well as continuity.
  • Copy Editing is more technical and granular than developmental and line editing, focusing on the mechanics of grammar and usage. One of the primary goals of copyediting is ensuring consistency throughout the work, so a style guide like the Chicago Manual of Style is a must.
  • Proofreading is the “tidying up” stage of editing done after your book is typeset, where any tiny remaining errors are corrected. Both proofreading and copy editing are best done by trained professionals, as these little slip-ups are the easiest to miss in your own work.
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You may preserve a feeling of order and stay on track throughout the editing process by knowing these stages and tackling them one at a time and in the proper sequence. This multi-tiered strategy also ensures that no detail of your work goes unnoticed. Because this Effective Editing: How to Take Your Writing to the Next Level course is about learning how to edit your own work, it concentrates on developmental and line editing, leaving copy editing and proofreading to a professional editor.

From the Top Down

When it comes to editing, it’s best to start with a wide perspective and narrow it down as you progress through the phases. The first stage is to train your editor’s sight in advance of your edit. This entails stepping away from your draft for a while and then figuring out how to gain perspective and perceive it in a new light.

Then it’s time to go to work on your edits. The first components you should examine in narrative writing are premise, story, and structure—don’t worry if you don’t understand how these three terms vary; Molly will guide you through each term in depth. Molly tells you how to guarantee your work is structurally solid, consistent, and more than just a set of events that occurs in order, using examples from classic works such as The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and Pride and Prejudice.

Character motives, faults, and decisions, whether fictitious or based on fact, are another essential component of good story writing. Molly introduces you to the Protagonist Test, which offers questions like these to help you better analyze your characters:

  • What does your character want?
  • What do they actually need?
  • Do they take decisive action or are they reactive?
  • Do they take the lead in solving problems and achieving goals?
  • Do they fight the “final battle” on their own?
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You’ll discover the significance of external and internal conflict, as well as how to modify your characters to make them more dynamic, complex, and fascinating to readers. You’ll also look at how to balance action with summary, pace your work efficiently, solve common point-of-view issues, strengthen scenes, and enhance dialogue and internal monologue, among other things. You’ll learn when to follow the common writing guideline “Show, don’t tell” and when to disregard it.

The Line Editor’s Toolbox and Beyond

After you’ve completed the main components of developmental editing, you’ll go on to line editing, which involves scrutinizing and fine-tuning your work at the sentence level. You’ll discover how concentrating on three components of speech—adverbs, adjectives, and verbs—can help you enhance the flow of your writing and make your sentences sparkle. You’ll learn how to apply tried-and-true techniques to cut down on wordiness and repetition, so you can prune your writing like a master.

Molly also debunks common grammatical and usage myths, delving into topics such as passive voice, sentence fragments, and split infinitives. She then goes on to describe when these so-called rules should be bent or broken (as well as which rules were never helpful to begin with).

Finally, knowing when to quit is one of the most challenging elements of editing. It’s all too simple to keep adjusting, tinkering, and revising your writing until it becomes a never-ending loop that never seems finished. With Molly’s help, you’ll discover when to quit self-editing, when and how to hire other editors for important phases like copy editing and proofreading, and how to keep pushing forward to finish your project.

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