The last stage of writing is one that I have yet to complete, at least for a novel, anyway. But editing and proofing have always been integral parts of my work, so out of all the parts of the writing process, this is one place that I feel within my element.
Editing is not glamorous. It’s tedious and nitty-gritty, and it takes a careful repetitiveness, but I’m OCD enough that I really like it.
So how do I go about editing?
- Edit in layers, focusing on one type of edit at a time. Grammatical / typographical, consistency, structural, and content edits are good places to start. If I don’t break up what I’m looking for into layers, I miss things. Yes, this means multiple sweeps, but it’s about the only way it works for me. Consistency edits, in particular, can be hard to keep up with, and I recommend charting things like timelines, names, locations, and particular word or sentence stylings you use repeatedly.
- Grab some paper. If I need to do serious content edits to a section, I sometimes print it out and cut it up into sections. I’m visual, so the ability to physically rearrange text sometimes lends more clarity than a digital format would.
- Hand it over to a robot. Or rather, a fantastic, free tool called Hemingway. Hemingway marks up text you paste into it, giving you all kinds of feedback. It tells you the reading level, it highlights passive sentences and adverbs, it lets you know when your sentences are too complex, etc. It’s a great way to gauge the clarity of your writing without a second set of (human) eyes.
(These are, of course, just a handful of ideas. Editing is a long, often complex process. And these are just editing tips that you can do yourself; I could talk about critique groups, beta readers, professional editors, etc. for days.)