Learn How to Edit Your Next Writing Project.

Learn how to edit your next writing project.

Some people believe the first draft is the hardest to write. Coming up with the idea, maintaining motivation and seeking inspiration to complete a first draft can be daunting, however I still believe the hardest part comes after this. The revising and editing process. This is where you will generally spend the majority of your writing time.

I have developed an editing process I find works well for me. I apply it to everything I write; short pieces, long projects, blogs, articles and more. You may find you adopt some of my practices into your own, you need to simply find what works the best for you to produce a high quality and well edited writing project.

This first thing I do when editing any writing projects is to make a list of everything I know that will need to be checked (such as spelling names correctly and consistently, timelines, plot points, theme and character arcs), fixed and assessed. This list helps lessen those feelings of overwhelm when looking at your rough draft, as well as provide direction when the daunting task of editing is at hand. Once I have finished my list I break the revision process down into sections that I refer to as the “Attack of The R’s”: Re-read, Rest, Re-arrange, Re-word, and Re-check.

attack of the r's

Re-read

This re-reading stage is about identifying flaws and holes in your plot (if writing non-fiction or creative fiction), as well as double checking facts, figures and research (fiction, articles, assignments etcetera). You can make another list, if you wish, of all the finer details that will need further researching and checking to be sure they are accurate and fit in with your story.

Cut out whole chapters, sections, dialogue or pages that do not fit with your story. It is ok to be brutal here. When you have done that once, then read through again and cut out smaller sections such as paragraphs, sentences and phrases that once again do not suit your story and what you are attempting to convey. I save both copies of the draft, the first draft and the reduced draft, so that I can always go back and see what I have cut out. You may also find that some of the things you cut out spark an idea for a different story or even a sequel.

Once you have fixed any major problems and culled down your word count then it is time to move onto the second process in editing your project.

Rest

After I have cut down the original draft, I let it “rest” for a while. I put it away for a few days or even for a week or so (as long as there are no deadlines looming) so that when I return to it, I do so with fresh eyes and a new perspective. It also saves you from not only becoming sick of your story, but from missing any mistakes.

Re-arrange

This process is once again reading through your project and thinking about the flow and arrangement of your work. If you find that it doesn’t read well, try re-arranging sections, paragraphs and sentences around until you are happy with the flow of words. You should also be double checking that your plot develops in a logical and understandable manner, if it doesn’t then you will need to re-arrange plot points until it makes sense and flows seamlessly.

Re-word

Now we are getting down into the nitty gritty finer details. I always put this process near the bottom of the list as there is no point spending all that time and effort finding the best words if you only end up cutting that entire section out.

Re-read your work again (yes again!). You may find you re-read your work 100 times or more when it comes to the final processes of editing and perfecting. This stage is where you polish and fine-tune your whole piece. Dissect every paragraph, every sentence and every word. Are you consistent with names, dates, personalities, spelling, tense, and point of view etcetera? Do you use your active voice, not passive? Have you picked powerful words? Re-word and re-write until you feel you are done and couldn’t possibly do any more re-writing. Then read it all again!

Re-check

If it is a long project I am editing I let it rest for a week or so again. If it is a small project such as an article or blog then I skip the “rest period”.

This re-check is simply a last thorough reading of your project to ensure it flows smoothly, reads well, all mistakes have been fixed, and that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation errors. I also double-check the list I wrote at the very beginning to confirm I have ticked everything off. If you are confident, you can send it on to a friend, family member or editor for a final check. A new perspective is handy to spot any errors you may not notice after reading your writing project copious amounts of time.

And there you have it. Editing and revising using the “Attack of the R’s”! It is a simple process that can be adapted to any project, big or small. Below is a list of other tips that I use throughout the whole Attack of The R’s process.

 Editing and Revising Tips:

  • Read and edit on your computer and in paper form
  • Read your writing out loud. Is it easy to read? Does it have a smooth rhythm? Does it flow?
  • Be brutal and cut out parts that do not suit your project.
  • Make sure your writing flows, is logical, and the story line is easy to follow.
  • Double-check all facts, figures, quotes, and citations etcetera to ensure they are accurate.
  • Have a family member, friend or professional read through and check your work.
  • “Rest” your work before a final read through.

 

Work Life Balance….What’s That?

Work Life Balance

There is a constant struggle to maintain a “healthy” work life balance. You have to work to live, that’s a given; but how much work is too much? Where do you draw the line? How do you maintain the balance?

Starting a new career as an author and freelancer is hard. You still need to have an income so you can live, and unless you are blessed with having great financial backing so you can write full time until your work pays for itself, then you have to try and balance employment, writing and life! I have found this is the most difficult aspect of my writing journey. My husband brings in money from his job, however I still need to be earning some money so we don’t go backwards. Technically I am trying to balance two jobs (three if you count being a mum) with every other aspect of living. And I know I am not the only one.

There are so many articles and blogs out there touting the benefits of work life balance. We all know why it is important to maintain this balance, but how do we do that? At the moment until I am earning enough from my writing career to give up my day job, then I have to continue working two jobs. The great thing about writing is you can do it anywhere! Down by the river whilst having a picnic, at the coffee shop, out in the backyard, anywhere! The important thing to try and remember is to seize any downtime I have and use that to write. So amongst the housework, the mothering, nursing, and being a wife, I write.

There is no “right” way of achieving work life balance. It is a very individual thing. Having said that, I believe it is unrealistic to max out in all aspects of your work and life at once. There simply isn’t enough hours in the day, week, month or year for everything. The key I found is to prioritise. To help me prioritise and ensure I have some fun during the week, not just work, I write out a list of what I need to achieve for that week in my ever present diary. Then I break it down into what I HAVE to do each day. At the moment, I usually only have an hour to write a day, sometimes more at night. So all the things on my list need to be able to be completed in a timely manner. Around what I absolutley have to do, including housework, cooking and my nursing shifts, I schedule in “family time”. To me family is my number one priority, so I have to make sure I spend quality time with them. My diary is scribbled on and Unknownhighlighted, wrinkled and torn. I would be completely lost without it.

I am a bit of an organisational control freak, so I have to-do lists for absolutely everything. With how crazy busy my life is at the moment, I rely on these lists to ensure I get all my daily tasks done. I have to work hard to stay motivated, and not procrastinate. If I waste time getting things done, then it cuts into the time I get to spend with my family.

The most important thing I hope you take away from this, is it is important to schedule in family or down time. You have to take care of yourself, and that is the secret to a health work life balance.

 

 

Procrastination

Procrastination

We are all guilty of procrastinating at one time or another. Most of us struggle with it every single day. So what leads us to procrastinate? Lack of motivation? Fear? Poor habits? Let’s explore what can lead to procrastination.

When you are reading through this, be honest with yourself. Question yourself constantly to find what drives you to procrastinate. Once you identify what it is, then you can address it and overcome the battle every procrastinator faces!

If you are looking to procrastinate some more, then read on for tips on overcoming procrastination or click the links to the articles I found useful and memorable.

Overcoming Procrastination – MindTools.

Tim Urban “Why Procastinators Procrastinate” has created a great article on procrastination, complete with cartoon drawings to demonstrate!

Barriers to overcoming procrastination:

Motivation:

If you aren’t excited or inspired by your project, then you will find any excuse not to write. Motivation and procrastination seem to go hand in hand most of the time.

Fear of success:

It sounds silly and counterintuitive, but this is one of the most common fears people suffer from. Why? Isn’t the whole reason we write and create and put our work out there to become a success? But then the pressure is on to maintain that success and keep producing the goods. If you find yourself constantly trying to get your life in order rather then focusing on the important tasks and projects you need to complete then perhaps you are suffering from a fear of success. Do you put roadblocks, problems and challenges in your own way because of an internal fear? Are you afraid of change in your life that will be bought about by success? Then perhaps this is why you find yourself stuck in the rut of procrastination!

Fear of Failure:

No one likes to fail; it is never a nice feeling no matter the circumstances. When you fear failure it can lead to procrastination by indulging in un-resourceful and unnecessary perfectionism. You may struggle with feelings of inadequacy and negativity, which lead to reluctance to work or submit your work.

Fear of Judgment:

Do you constantly worry about what other people may think of your work? Sometimes we worry about this so much it can stop us from undertaking the task at hand.

Perfectionism:

I believe that we need to have some level of perfectionism to create a great solid piece of writing, however we have to rein it in before it rules our lives! Otherwise you may find yourself redoing the same piece of work over and over again in an attempt to create the perfect piece of writing but never submitting it.

Over Planning:

I am so very guilty of this! I write lists, plans, timelines and plans for plans. I break every little project down into even smaller projects and before I realize it I have wasted days just planning without actually writing or progressing on my novel. Planning is of course incredibly important when writing, however there comes a time when you have to take action, stop planning on how to do things and just do them!

Overwhelmed:

It is easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed by a big project, or by lots of little projects. This is where planning comes in handy (remembering not to over plan). If you feel you are facing an impossible task then you will put off starting or continuing the project.

Frustration:

Stricken down by writers block? Story not turning out how you wanted or thought it would? Your characters are not behaving? These are all very frustrating and annoying, which makes it even harder to relax and write. If you are frustrated every time you sit down to write, then you will dither around and put off working on your writing project.

Social Media:

In this day and age we are connected to the Internet and outside world wherever we go. It is important when selling your work to have an online presence, but it can be distracting and time consuming.

Strategies to conquer procrastination

To become motivated you must understand what is stopping you from feeling inspired and creative. See  Creating Motivation and Motivation for further advice and information.

Fear of success, failure and judgment are hard to overcome. You will have to find your inner strength to battle these fears. A good support network made up of family, friends and other writers can be a great resource. Many people suffer these same fears. Reach out on forums, social networks, writers’ conferences and many other places. I guarantee you will find at least one other person who feels the same as you. I know I do. The only advice I can give is to focus on why you write, what you would like to gain from it, and the pride you will have when you finish your writing piece. Try to focus on the positives of your work, and what you achieve. Keep shoving that fear aside until it disappears. It’s like the old adage “fake it till you make it”.

Perfectionism is a very subjective and personal concept. How many times is too many to proofread and edit? 10? 20? 100? How long can you spend developing the perfect story line? There comes a time where you just have to bite the bullet and write or submit your work. I always have someone else read over my rough draft, and then later when I have proofread and edited about as much as I could stand I get him or her to read what I hope is the final copy. I always pick someone who I know will be honest and brutal. If they deem my work ok then off it goes! It is hard to identify if you are being overzealous in your work. It is a matter of tapping into your intuition and knowledge to recognize when you have finished.

To stop over planning in its tracks I set a time limit for how long I can spend writing lists and timelines. I allow myself a day to “plan” my writing project if it’s relatively big! If I find myself re-writing to-do lists, lists for lists or plans for plans, then I stop and ask myself “why am I procrastinating”? I give myself a stern talking to, take a quick 15-minute break, and then start writing.

Feeling overwhelmed is a relatively easy block to overcome. This is where you put those valuable planning skills to use. Look at your whole project, break it down into smaller tasks and get cracking! If this doesn’t work, then allow yourself to step away for a break. Go for a walk, or out for a coffee. Remove yourself from your writing space and clear your head. Hopefully when you return to your work you are relaxed and ready to tackle your project again.

The frustration of writers block, or stories and character’s not behaving as you wish them too makes for a great reason to procrastinate. This is where writing exercises, or warm-ups come in handy, putting you in the right frame of mind to create and write. Sometimes it is a matter of taking a break from that particular writing project for a few days, start something new, and then come back to it.

There are different schools of thought about social media, Internet and email usage during your writing time. Personally, I believe allocating a short space of time each day before you start on your own project is useful. It maintains your online presence, and gets it out of the way so you are not distracted when settling down to write. I usually set a time limit of how long I will browse the social media sites, answer emails and update my own sites before going on to do a few warm ups and then finally working on my own project. I am strict on not connecting to the Internet at all, unless for research, when working on my current project.

Procrastination breeds inactivity and sets you up for failing. If you learn to identify how, why and when you procrastinate you can overcome it. You just need to be honest with yourself, and nip it in the bud!