Editing and Proofreading

It isn’t just the conclusion that can be overwritten and it is not uncommon for a writer to spill everything they have out onto the page, in the belief that it is ALL necessary.

It is good practice to keep ‘clean copy’ when writing and how you achieve this is by consciously writing to certain rules, with regards punctuation and grammar. You also need to ensure that your writing is tight and you are not going off on tangents.

As we mentioned before, everyone has a different process when it comes to writing. Some of you will have stuck to your preplan, others will have written freely with an idea of that plan in the back of their minds.

Some of you might even have had the intention of using your story map, but in the end just wrote what came into your head.

That’s all fine – but one common issue when it gets to the end of your story, if you haven’t been keeping a track of it, is that you have ended up with a far bigger word count than is necessary.

Your short story should be no more than 1,000 words and no less than 100 words.

(JUNIOR CLASSES, this does not count if you are submitting a poem or a thought – there is no minimum word count for you.)

Don’t be surprised, however, if you have reached the end and you are 300 words above the cut-off point! This is where editing comes in.

Editing is the art of cutting unnecessary copy and every writer must learn how to do this.

As an author, when you submit your work to your publisher, you need to have ensured that it is of the highest standard. That you have read and reread, deleted unnecessary sentences and double-checked that it flows.

This is your responsibility but a lot of writers do not find it easy. This is because they cannot see how else to tell the story, once they have written it a certain way and to a certain length.

It is, however, possible and is both healthy and vital for all writers to learn how to edit their work back.

– To avoid boring the reader with pointless information.
– To keep pace.
– To ensure a satisfactory read.

So how do we edit?
– Pinpoint an area in need of editing.
– Consider the language used.
– Ask yourself – how can I get this across better?

– Identify any awkward phrases and rewrite. Are you making a point but could do it in a much tighter way? Are you repeating certain words? Remember your synonyms.

– Rectify any long-winded description. Get to the point and if you see that you haven’t, bullet point what you were trying to say on a separate sheet, delete the paragraph in the story and rewrite based on your bullet points.

– Double-check for inconsistencies. Did you describe your lead character as having red hair at the beginning but then tell your reader that she “tucked her long, black hair under her baseball cap,” later on?

The final step in the process is to proofread – when you read back over your story with correcting spelling and grammar in mind.

Because no one wants to, should have to or even will read copy that is badly written!

— Spellcheck – this seems obvious but so many writers fail to do it, and in doing so fail themselves on submission.

Spellcheck can help to identify wrong spelling and grammar and is a great way to start your proofread – but do not rely on it solely. (Note: Always ensure the spellcheck is set to UK English for Ireland and the UK.)

— Print your story out – this is a great way of really seeing your story. Read it with fresh eyes (i.e. after you have been away from it for a while) and use a red pen to mark out any changes or corrections needed.

— Read backwards – this might seem like a funny piece of advice but it’s a trick that…well, does the trick! It focuses your mind and is a great way of identifying wrong spellings.

— Use a checklist – you will not go wrong with this one. On it, have characters’ names and place names for example, as well as things like font and numbers to double-check in copy.

Once you have all of the aforementioned done, you are ready to submit your copy (see our final lesson, next). Well done – you are almost there!

To develop your editing skills go to Week 3/Exercise Sheet 1 and to work on your proofreading download Week 3/Exercise Sheet 2.
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