Self-editing is a tricky skill: Not only does it require technical know-how, it also demands that writers understand their own emotional obstacles. Writer’s Relief has written countless articles about craft and technique for revisions: Today, we’re looking at the way a writer’s state of mind can affect the revision process.
7 Questions To Ask Yourself When Revising Your Writing
Does the writing authentically reflect my interests and values? Some writers are pulled in different directions by a desire to write for the market (and sell their work) and a desire to follow their muses. Are you comfortable with the way the work in progress meets your personal goals?
What are my goals for this revision? Many works go through multiple rounds of revisions. Some rounds address big structural issues; others focus on finer details like grammar and typos. Stick to one type of revision at a time. By trying to revise sentence structure and dialogue and enormous issues of plotting and pacing all at once, you run the risk of not adequately examining any individual element.
What’s my revision methodology? Once you have a better sense of where you are in the revision process, you can clarify the focus of your work. For example: During an early phase of revision, you might want to hone in on big picture issues and ignore proofreading problems, sentence structure, phrasing, etc. In subsequent revisions, you might want to focus on mood, emotionality, and dramatic tension. Finally, for a last pass, you might look for typos and other grammar tweaks.
Am I flexible or inflexible about revising? Consider your true feelings about the revision process. Do you love revising or hate it? How important is it to you? How much work are you willing to put into revisions? Are you prepared to be an objective self-editor?
Could putting this aside for a while and then coming back to it be beneficial? Many writers recognize the value of stepping away from a work in progress in order to come back to it with fresh eyes and a new perspective.
Am I listening to my inner critic? Some writers’ instincts scream at them. But other writers only hear whispers. If you’re feeling even a little bit unsure about some element of your draft, listen to that voice—don’t brush it off. Ignore the temptation to settle for “good enough,” and trust that your instincts—however quietly they make themselves known—are right.
Could I benefit from a beta reader or critique group? Before the final editing and proofreading phases of the revision process, a writer may benefit from sharing his or her work with peers. But keep in mind that the more professional experience a reviewer has, the more likely you’ll be able to get professional-quality feedback. Learn more about how to find a freelance editor for your writing.
One Important Warning About The Revision Process
While revising is necessary, some writers fall into the trap of revising endlessly. Others can become so hypercritical of their own writing that they lose confidence. Every writer has an ever-evolving relationship with his or her inner critic. Follow these steps to make sure your revisions (and your writing career) do not fall prey to vicious self-critique.
Question: Which of these questions do you believe is the most challenging?