Writing Well-- 6 Steps to Being Your Own Best Editor
One of the first important lessons a writer learns is that writing is a process, a series of stepsthat take an idea from concept to completed work. This is true whether the work is an article, apoem, a report, a short story or a book. Understanding this process -- and the role a writer plays in it -- is crucial to their success.One of the most important steps in this process is learning to look at one's own workobjectively. To focus on the intended message and ensure that it is delivered properly. Whilethat may seem obvious enough, as the work progresses, it can become blurred. As the oldsong goes, "I have so much to say; but the words get in my way." To clarify that 'blurring'effect, it is essential to be able to edit your own work. But how does a writer edit their ownwork? While the process may vary depending on the writer, there are six steps that areintegral to editing.1) COMPLETE THE DRAFTNovicewriters should not attempt to edit as they write. Even experienced writers, who learn tosmoothe over the copy as they go, know this is not editing and must wait for that separatestep later on. The most important point of a first draft is to simply get the idea on paper, inwhatever fashion that's comfortable for the writer. An outline is helpful and can serve as arough draftfor smaller projects. But if that format seems too limiting, just write out the firstdraft, under standing it is only the first go-around.2) WALK AWAYEven if it's only for a long enough period of time to get a glass of water. With longer projects,try to lengthen the time to a few days or weeks. This step allows the writer to gain perspectiveby "stepping back". Mostly, it allows the writer time for the subject to settle in their mind, plus itgives them time to mentally shift gears from writer to editor.3) ASSESS OBJECTIVELYWhile reading over the copy, the writer must learn to view it as a reader. One should beneither overly critical, nor overly attached to certain pet phrases or side remarks, but simplyread it as if reading it for the first time. When done earnestly, this will make any errors, flaws or awkward points more apparent.4) BE BRUTALThis is the most difficult step, especially for the young or insecure writer. Heck, it's tough for the pros. Think of the classic image of an editor-- from the old Superman comics, for instance,wielding his red-ink pen with flourish, only interested in the facts. Especially when writingarticles or in business, this is your best ally. With this image in mind, really look at what isnecessary to make a logical progression. One trick is to put yourself under an artificial wordrestriction. Nothing helps cut unneccesary copy better than a specific word limit.5) CRISP, CONCISE, CLEARThese are the "3-C's" of good writing. While each writer has his/her own way of expressingthemselves (and, in the case of fiction, more latitude is acceptable), these three points areintegral parts of any successful writing.CRISP - A fresh or meaningful viewpoint. Take a stand. The purpose of writing is to saysomething-- so say it!CONCISE - Do not wander from the point. At least, not without a reason that directly relates tothe original idea.CLEAR - Make a steady progression from beginning to end. Don't leave major gaps in theprogression.
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