Why Should You Edit Your Writing?

By: Liz Palmer

So you’ve finally finished your first draft. Maybe it’s a novel. Maybe it’s a non-fiction book. Maybe you’ve written a picture book for children. Perhaps you love what you’ve written. Perhaps you’ve read it and decided it wasn’t really that good after all. Whatever you’ve written and however you feel about it, there is something you still need to do. Edit.

There are very few people who can write beautiful prose on their first draft. Most of the writing that we admire and love has gone through at least two drafts. The editing pen has come out, turning okay writing into great writing. Even if you think what you have written is wonderful, it will still be better after it has been edited.

The first step in the editing process is for you to edit your own work. This is important even if you decide you want to hire a professional editor. Manuscripts that contain many errors or a lot of sloppy writing take a long time to edit. If your editor charges by the hour, this will cost you more money. Learning some basic editing skills will not only save your editor’s time and save you money, but will also increase the chances that the work you submit to publishers will be error-free, well-written and more likely to be publishable.

While editing your work, you need to keep in mind the stage of writing you are at and what you are hoping to accomplish with your editing. Manuscripts will generally go through a number of different stages of editing. When editing your second draft, you will need to pay attention to how the writing all comes together and more general writing issues. By the time you reach the fifth draft, you will probably only be looking at basic proofreading (such as punctuation and spelling errors).

Every single step in the editing process is essential. The first draft should be a time where your creativity is given free reign. The following drafts help to turn this creativity into something that is well written and easy to read. Think about the types of thoughts that go through your mind. Most of us do not have thoughts that would transfer well to the written page. However, if those thoughts are written down, then editing can change those thoughts into a form that is publishable.

So if you need to do all that editing yourself, is there any point in hiring a professional editor? Yes. There are a number of reasons why an editor is essential, even when you have done a good job of editing your own work.

1. As a writer, you know what you want to say. You may think your writing communicates this message effectively. However, it may be that your message is not getting across.

2. You might look at your work and see what you know should be there, instead of what is actually there.

3. You may not understand all the writing and grammatical rules that should apply.

4. Sometimes writers fall in love with their own work. They cannot see that parts of it are very poorly written.

5. A fresh eye looking over your work is more likely to pick up on points that the writers will miss.

There are different editing and proofreading services that may be provided. You may like to hire an editor to completely go over your manuscript. Or you may consider using a copy-editor or proofreader. If you are confident in your own writing ability and believe that it is very near to publishable stage, then a proofreader may best serve your needs. If, on the other hand, you have never published anything before and are not confident about your writing skills, you may like to hire an editor. Some editors will also provide manuscript assessments.

Next time you are reading a book and feel inadequate because you could never write like that, think again. The writer of the book probably can’t write like that on a first draft, either. But I can almost guarantee that the writer has done something that you can do too – he has edited his work.

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