How to self-edit like a pro

Laptop with text onscreen

Are you writing and wondering what’s the best way to get your draft into shape? You’ve got your content down, now the work of self-editing starts.

Great! But first – and this is really important – set it aside, for as long as you can.

That sounds counterintuitive, right? Here’s why.

Writing is creative, and editing is analytical. They require different mental processes and approaches – it’s hard to do both at the same time.

Trying to edit yourself as you write can get in the way. It stifles creative flow.

Separating the two, and giving your mind a clear breather between them, helps you to reset and go back in fresh.

It also helps you deal with any parts of the text that might be bugging you. Even if the answer hasn’t arrived during your time out, you’ll be in a far better headspace to go back and tackle it.

Doing nothing is a totally valid part of the creative process. It frees your mind to tick over in the background while you’re getting on with other things.

Inspired connections and ideas can pop up when we aren’t consciously focusing on our task.

So don’t feel ‘I’m not writing’ if you aren’t chained 24/7 to your keyboard. Thinking time is just as important too!

So take a good break – as long as you possibly can – then start to edit.

When you’ve done that:

  • Print out your script – it’s useful for quick notes, plus text is easier to analyse on the page than on-screen.
  • Find a quiet time and space where you’ll be undisturbed, and settle into a comfy chair with your pages.
  • Read them aloud – this helps you detach and shift perspective from your writing to the reader experience. Reading aloud also helps with phrasing and narrative flow: you can begin to see where the pauses, paragraphing and structure need to be, as well as punctuation.
  • Make notes, then go back in to edit again.

This process helps you take your script as far as you can, especially if you’re planning to work with an editor.

How do you handle drafting, and what are your challenges in editing your drafts?

I’d love to know! Tell me in the comments below.

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