A professional editor -- I don't need no stinkin' professional editor!
Have you ever heard yourself saying that? You are a good writer, right? You don't need a professional editor, do you? Well, I am here to tell you that we can all benefit from the work of a good editor. A good editor makes you sound smarter. A good editor understands that the work is your work, not his/hers, and strives to make your work better. A good editor will understand your vision of the work, the essential storyline, and the proposed audience. A good editor will ensure your work is seen for the brilliant work it is, not for the typos, problems with flow, grammatical errors, plot drops, or missing punctuation.
As you can tell, at MEREA we recommend you engage a professional editor. However, we know that sometimes you simply can't afford a professional editor. So what to do then? One of the greatest challenges in writing is ensuring that what you meant to write is what you actually wrote. Human nature leads us to read our own work with blinders on. So, how do we overcome that propensity?
Here are six tricks to help you carefully edit your own work:
1. Focus on cutting your text 30%. I know, I know . . . that sounds like a LOT! But authors often over-write or rely on words like "that" and "the" which, when removed, smooth the flow of the text. Look for unnecessary paragraphs, asides that don't contribute strongly to the storyline, and tangential comments in dialogue you originally thought were clever but now realize were not. Delete all duplications.
2. Set your work aside for a significant period of time (two weeks or more), then go back to it for a read through. This strategy tricks your brain into paying more attention to the words. When you are reading your work without anticipating what the next words should be, you will recognize errors in what the next words are.
3. Read whole sections of your work backwards. You will be surprised how many errors show up when you read backwards.
4. Read your work out loud. You'll quickly hear stilted language and redundancies.
5. Run Spellcheck and carefully decide on each proposed edit.
6. Run an online, free grammar check software like Grammarly and carefully decide on each proposed edit.
Good luck with your next writing project!