Friday, 29 July 2016

Writers Workshop #7 Editing

I came home from WW feeling angry.  These are very common emotions stirred up by the extrememly difficult yet (apparently) rewarding process of editing.  It's writers marmite and it has to be done to the absolute best of your ability and - here's the kicker - more than once!  Yes that's right, you will have to edit your masterpiece multiple times.

Whilst editing is often viewed as a negative process let's try and look at it through positivity goggles. What doesn't work can be rewritten, brand new passages can evolve and best of all, if it's done right, whatever is left will be pure quality.

Remember two important words - clarity and precision.

Use the best words possibly when writing - enough for us to understand what you see but not too much that we can't decipher your brilliant vision.  Avoid weak words like ... errr... brilliant.... and be more adventurous with your vocabulary.  Minimal adjectives - no adverbs and heavens above no cliches on pain of death.

If you don't know exactly who your characters are and what they are meant to be doing then there is very little chance the reader will either.  Guess what?  Writing requires effort and thought, it's hard work and sometimes it seems that the creative idea is the very smallest part of the whole.

Persevere.  Be pedantic.  Analyse every single word because if it doesn't tell the reader something about the character or further the plot then it doesn't need to be there.  Strong writing creates strong images so be wary of hesitant words.  Nine times out of ten you can get rid of or change the following:

  • maybe
  • almost
  • just
  • nearly
  • perhaps
  • very
  • really
Say what you want to say without fannying around.  Something is either happening or it isn't.  Take charge of your words.

Editing advice - read it through once without doing anything at all.  Then read it tuned in with a coloured pen of your choice.  Plant a tree if you feel bad for the environment because editing on paper is a real requirement.  Correction time may well involve several gallons of the beverage of your choice and a preferred snack.  If you can stomach it, and you want your work to be the absolute best it can be, record your novel and listen to it aloud.  You will discover issues with pace - words that jar - dialogue that doesn't flow naturally but that's alright because you are building a masterpiece.  It takes time, it takes effort and it takes love.  If your work truly becomes a chore then, quite possibly, it is not the book you are meant to write.


  1. Hi Claire! I randomly stumbled on your blog from clicking the "next blog" link on the blogger nav bar and I must say, I love this post! It's among the very few interesting reads I've hopped on randomly. Thank you for the editing tips! <3 Keep writing!

    1. Hi Yan - I'm so pleased you enjoyed the blog post. Thanks for reading and sending a message, it's always great to hear from someone who isn't my best friend or Mum! Workshops continue until the end of the year so there will be - hopefully - more editing tips coming your way. Keep reading :)