An editor’s guide to fine-tuning your creative writing competition entry
Teachit’s editors give you their top tips for editing your work successfully
Your competition entry is written, it’s ready to go – it’s good, it’s award winning, right? Or is it? If you’re having any last minute doubts then do have a quick read of our top editing tips.
1. Print out your work and proofread/edit the paper version. One of the best, most basic rules of editing is to edit your work on the page. Errors that you’ve missed on-screen will leap out at you from the printed page. It’s a boring, but essential step towards making your writing as good as it can possibly be.
2. Proofread your work – again, and again, and, er … again. (And then get a friend to proofread it for you too.) When you’re reading back over your work, it’s easy to miss small errors. The only way to weed these errors out is to go back through what you’ve written with a fine-tooth comb – several times. After all, you don’t want the person reading your work to be amused by your typos when they should be feeling affected by your poignant death scene.
3. Cut it down. Cutting is an editor’s best friend. When you’re writing, it’s easy to get attached to words and sentences. You’re doing something vital, something that’s really important to you and often the things that feel most important can be almost impossible to cut. And that’s where you have to be ruthless and honest. Pretty much every piece of writing can be vastly improved by cutting. It’s like mowing the lawn or pruning a hedge. Once you’ve got rid of the surplus words, the ones you’ve left behind will stand out and your writing will be stronger. (Honestly.) Which leads me on to the next point …
4. Listen to your internal voice. Not sure what I mean? It goes like this …
You’re reading your work back to yourself and there’s a faint question in your mind, circling around certain sentences and phrases, or bigger things too – such as aspects of plot or character. But it’s really faint, this question, and you can hardly hear it. Anyway, you enjoyed writing those sentences/phrases, so you can just overrule that internal voice, right? Wrong! The best writers learn to listen to their internal voice, almost at the expense of everything else. Even if you loved writing that simile, if your internal voice is questioning it, cut it.
5. Let it rest. Once you’ve worked and re-worked your writing, it’s a good idea to put it to one side for a bit. In an ideal world, you’d rest your writing for a month. In the real world you might just let it rest for a week, or a day even. But you’ll find that if you take a step back from what you’ve written, you’ll buy yourself some valuable perspective. And this will help you to make those final revisions that could make all the difference to your work.