This is the most underestimated element of the writer’s art. But it is absolutely necessary. To be a good writer, you must also be a good editor. Train yourself to edit and you will greatly enhance the quality of your work. Here are some tips:
1) Get to the end of your first draft before you begin to edit, otherwise you run the risk of getting tangled up in detail
2) Leave your draft for a while (a couple of weeks, if possible) before re-reading it. By letting your work go ‘cold’, it will become much easier to edit.
3) Read your draft aloud. This is one of the best tests for any piece of writing. It will help you to spot where the pace slackens – and why. It will also highlight errors, discrepancies and duplication. If it doesn’t sound right, then it’s wrong. It’s as simple as that.
4) Before making large cuts or additions to your work, try re-arranging sentences and paragraphs. This can work wonders. When you are writing, your ideas don’t always follow a logical sequence. They often need to be reorganised at this stage.
5) Pencil in cuts/additions to your work and leave it for a day or two. Before finalising any changes, review your work again. You will often find that any required alterations are much simpler and smaller than you initially thought. Sometimes, you may only have to change a few words rather than cutting/adding extra paragraphs.
6) Have you used too many adjectives? These can overburden text and slow the pace. Don’t clutter your writing. Keep it tight and light. Try using well-chosen verbs as an alternative.
7) Use your dictionary and thesaurus. If in doubt, always check that you have used the right word and look for alternatives to prevent duplication.
8) Do use the spell- and grammar-checks on your computer – but don’t rely on them. There is no substitute for the human eye and judgement. Always proof-read your own work several times.
9) When you are happy with your story, find someone whose judgement you trust and let them read it. Be prepared to take constructive criticism. Review your work in the light of their comments. Can it be improved? If so, amend it. If not, don’t.
10) For competitions, check that your work adheres to the rules, especially regarding subject and word-count. Presentation is also important. Are there any stipulations as to how your manuscript should be set out? Where should you write your name and contact details? Should your manuscript be emailed or sent via the post? Is an entry fee required?
So now you’ve got some guidance for researching, writing and editing. What are you waiting for? Start writing and, above all, enjoy it.