How to edit your writing

Top Teacher Tips from Mark Roberts

When I’ve written something – whether it’s a newspaper article, a chapter of a book, a short story or a poem – I spend a lot of time going back over it, editing and improving on the first draft.

All too often, young writers will be happy what they’ve produced first time around and leave it at that. But careful editing can have a massive impact on the quality of a piece of writing.
Here are three things I look for in particular when I’m trying to improve my work:

Tip 1: Get rid of wasteful words
With any writing, but especially shorter pieces, it’s important to cut out any waffle. Look at each sentence. Look at each word. Is it necessary? Is it adding anything to the overall text? Could you use fewer words to make the meaning clearer? If so, don’t be afraid to hack away at the wasteful words.

Tip 2: Use powerful verbs
Some words do a lot more than others to help get across an idea to your reader. Consider the difference between telling your reader that you ‘walked towards the shops’ rather than ‘skipped’, ‘staggered’, ‘trudged’ or even ‘floated’. These verbs help to get across the mood and feelings much more than dull, neutral alternatives.

Tip 3: Think about your structure
Whether you’re writing a story, a piece of non-fiction or a poem, it’s important to consider the order that you provide information to your reader and how much you choose to give away at the start. I love reading things where I have to do a bit of work as a reader to work out what is going on. You could, for example, start your writing in the middle of some action without explaining what is happening. I enjoy it when the details are filled in gradually, drip-feeding me the story, creating a bit of mystery and keeping me entertained.

So get thinking, get writing and, most of all, enjoy spending time working on your second and third drafts.

Good luck.

Mark Roberts


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