You’re finished – what now? Tips for editing your writing.

So, you’ve finished your piece of writing – what next? If your English teachers were anything like mine, I’m sure you were told to proof read, proof read, and then proof read some more! Proof reading is key for any piece of writing, but I would argue that (and the English teachers might hate me for saying this) for creative writing, the content is more important than getting punctuation 100% correct. These are the tips I’ve picked up for editing content, and how to improve your writing in the process.

Firstly, I print off (or re-write) my piece of writing (usually this tip helps best for short stories, although this could work for poetry and other forms too), and then go through with a coloured pen and annotate it. I’ll circle words I don’t like, or phrases I’m unsure of. This document always looks a mess – and if it doesn’t, I haven’t done enough. This is where I will fine tune details and focus on word choice; sometimes I’ll even rearrange the order of a sentence or a paragraph. I’ll then type up the newly edited version. This version always has much more life than the initial draft!

Secondly, if I’m writing poetry, but this could work for shorter prose too, I’ll write out every line of my poem and cut the lines out. For poetry, each line has to mean something; it has to have a purpose. If when the lines are on their own, some of them mean nothing, something has to change. Sometimes through this process I cut out lines or change the language to make each line important and meaningful on its own. Using this technique, I can also try rearranging lines to see if a different structure works better. This is one of the tips that I find most helpful.

Thirdly, when I’m finished writing something, I will always read it aloud. This is vital for poetry, but also prose. When you hear a piece of writing out loud, you pick up mistakes like rhythm and pace issues or punctuation errors in a way that you wouldn’t from just reading it in your head. This is often when I’ll change line lengths in my poetry or adjust the punctuation in my prose, because it didn’t sound right when I read it aloud.

Lastly, and this may seem obvious, but get someone else to read your writing. A fresh pair of eyes is sometimes what is needed to find little errors that we miss. Another person will look at the writing with no emotional attachment and be able to pick out small punctuation mistakes or things like the use of the wrong ‘your’.

And once you’ve done all this – your writing will be ready! We can’t wait to read all of your stories, poems, articles and whatever else – good luck!

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