Editing Process

Editing and revising a piece can be one of the hardest parts of writing. Yet, it is one of the most important stages of writing. Here is a suggested process to help you organize yourself when editing. 

1. Read your piece to yourself to find big problems. 
       When editing, let yourself be the first set of eyes. ONLY look at big picture items. Things such as topic/theme consistency, relevancy, clarity, voice, tone, imagery, order, message, and length are often looked at in this stage. If you are writing a narrative, or if you have a person in your story, you'll often consider the person's voice or character consistency throughout. 
       This is the point where you will often cut sentences or paragraphs, change the order, rewrite entire sections of your piece, or change your wording to make your piece more clear. BIG things are happening.

2. Give your piece to a friend for feedback. 
      You're still not done with big picture editing. Now you need a new set of eyes to look for the same problems that you did. Ask a friend to look for big picture problems. 
      It's helpful to give them three or four guiding questions to let them know exactly what you need. Example: 
       Did my tone in this piece come across as somber or pretentious? 
       Did I provide enough evidence to support my thesis? 
       Does this character stay consistent throughout, or do you think her personality starts to shift too much on page two? 


3. Order your tasks, and do your first revision. 
       Now that you have things you need to work on from two people, order your tasks from biggest to smallest. Meaning, if the biggest problem in your piece is an inconsistent message (the problem shows up most often, it creates the largest eye-sore in your piece), that is the problem you should tackle first. 
       Let's say you had four things you needed to fix: your conclusion was too long and vague, your main character had inconsistent motives, all of your transition sentences on page three were too forced, the internal voice vs. external voice of your secondary main character was inconsistent. The order of "biggest" to smallest, and what you should work on first, would be: the main character inconsistency, the secondary character's dialogue, the conclusion, and then the transition sentences. 

4. Look at what you have changed, and share it again. 
      Now you should read your piece. Did your edits work? Did your work improve? Give it to your friend again and ask if your second draft is better than your first. Revise again if you both agree there are more big picture issues. 

5. Read your work out loud. 
     The time has come to move onto smaller issues such as awkwardly worded sentences, redundant words, or unnecessary sentences. Read your work out loud. Does your piece sound natural? If you read it out loud and it doesn't sound natural, you'll know you have found a problem like awkward wording or order. Edit the problems you find. Keep reading out loud and editing until it sounds completely natural when spoken. 

6. Grammar. 
      Finally, we reach the smallest issue: grammar. Look at your piece for red and green squiggly lines. Find those typos and missing commas. One strategy to find typos is to turn your paper upside down and start polishing it. You have to focus more to read upside down, which makes you spot more mistakes. 
      Send it to your friend again and ask them to point out typos and grammar mistakes. 

[Creative Commons Lisence: StanJourdan, non-commerical, https://www.flickr.com/photos/stanjourdan/​]