The first rule of writing is to just write, the second rule of writing is to reflect, the third rule of writing is to try to understand what the hell you have written and the fourth rule of writing is to edit and make sense.
Just recently I was asked how to get a rough first draft into final copy and I was stumped. Stumped because writing and editing has become an unconscious competence, which basically means I just do it. And I bet if you ask any writer the same question they will have to think what their process actually is.
So… here are some of the processes I go through, though not necessarily in this order…
Have an editing plan
The editing plan is my list of things I must remember to do.
Have a change log
When you find something that needs changing make a note.
Refer to your outline
I put mine up where I can see it and keep asking, am I following the plan? Have I answered the questions?
Format your work for clarity and flow
Now… I am the sort of writer who sets up her workspace (page size, style sheets etc.) before she starts, so this is the easy bit. If you are the kind of writer who opens up a blank document and just writes, now is the time for you to format your work. This means putting all of the headings and formatting the main body.
Turn on the navigation pane and rulers
This really helps you to see where you are and how the document flows. It’s the outline on the left.
Highlight questions / answers
Start to make sense of your writing
Read, reflect, annotate, mark up, delete, decide, rewrite etc.
There is so much more…
- Small words – It, so, or, of
- Sound like – Their and there – Your and you’re
- Overused words
- Make a list of no no words – search & replace
- Pick different words, try them for size
- Be careful that your new word makes sense
- Don’t start sentences the same way
- Mix up long and short sentences
- Highlight parts – use bold – put quotes in italics
Analogies / stories
- Do they make sense?
- Are they in context?
- Are they consistent?
Share with others
- Take it in turns to read aloud
- Can you follow?
- Does it make sense?
- Cut and slash
If it doesn’t make sense get rid of it
Move it to where it does make sense
Spell and grammar checker
- Check for different things – just spelling, just grammar, grammar and style, etc.
Check the steps
- Do they make sense
And there is even more
But this is where we stop for now. You could of course consider a professional copy editor to scrutinise your work…