Tip: Major Writing Process, step 5: Edit


Let me give you three quotes that are particularly appropriate here (one of which you have already seen).

  1. “It is perfectly okay to write garbage–as long as you edit brilliantly.” C.J. Cherryh
  2. “Rewriting is the essence of writing well: it’s where the game is won or lost. That idea is hard to accept. We all have an emotional equity in our first draft; we can’t believe that it wasn’t born perfect. But the odds are close to 100 percent that it wasn’t.” William Zinsser
  3. “Rewriting is called revision in the literary and publishing trade because it springs from re-viewing, that is to say, looking at your copy again–and again and again.” Jacques Barzun”

After you write, put away your document for some time. The more involved you are in it, the longer you should put it away. Basically, leave it long enough so that you may see it without preconceptions and without remembering what you were thinking at the time. You need to review it fresh.

Then look at it again. Does it satisfy the purpose for which you wrote it? Have you communicated your ideas clearly? Can you make it more concise without losing essential content? Are the ideas logically presented?

Keep criticizing it, refining it, until it is as good as it can be. Then give it to others (perhaps your editor) to evaluate.

Here’s the main point: Your first draft will need editing. The editing process is what will make your document an effective communication tool, regardless of the genre. Make sure you have time for this stage. It is critical.

Here’s the secondary point: If others recommend (or make) changes, don’t be offended. Expect it. First drafts will always need improvements. As will second drafts.

Quick reminder:

  • Tip 58: Major writing process, step 1: Identify your central idea.
  • Tip 68: Major writing process, step 2: Organize ideas prior to writing, part 1.
  • Tip 78: Major writing process, step 2: Organize ideas prior to writing, part 2.
  • Tip 88: Major writing process, step 3: Analyze the audience, part 1.
  • Tip 98: Major writing process, step 3: Analyze the audience part 2
  • Tip 108: Major writing process, step 4: Write in the Appropriate Style and Tone

**********

writingtipslogoThis is writing tip 118 from our Writing Tips for a Year series. Please visit PreciseEdit.com to learn more about Writing Tips for a Year and other writing guides by Precise Edit.

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