As I said last week (and at other times), a problem with self-editing is that you as author know what you intended to say, which means you have to trick yourself into forgetting that so you see what's actually on the page.
(Note: This works for school essays, too.)
Writers have different writing techniques and learning styles, too, so one writer's best method might be another's worst. You'll have to practice and test yourself, to figure out the best methods for tricking yourself—and, when you encounter stories that you wrote differently than usual, you'll have to keep practicing and testing to figure out the best route for usual.
For example, someone who writes a quick rough draft to spew words out on the page won't remember what's there as well as someone who edits while they write. That makes it easier for the former type to trick themselves—but the latter type's more likely to know how to edit.
Because writing and editing are two different skills.
And revision/rewriting (whichever you want to call fixing what you've written) is yet another one.
(And remember: it's always far easier to edit others' work than to edit your own.)
So, last week we went over some methods to trick yourself for "big picture" (macro) editing. How do you trick yourself for "little picture" (micro) editing.
5 Methods for "Little Picture" (Micro) Editing:
- Wait before re-reading.
- Change the format.
- Check your writing against checklists.
- Make use of Find & Replace.
- Read aloud.
Wait between writing and editing, preferably writing something else in the meantime.
When used properly, this method helps everyone. (Though it helps folks who write quickly more than it does those who write slowly.) Time gives you distance to see what's actually on the page—which makes it helpful for both catching problems and for taking a deep breath when you're panicking and convinced your book is the worst thing ever.
(Oh, and that "Ah! This is terrible! How can I inflict this on the public!" feeling is normal—it's even a good sign…)
But you can also cripple yourself with this method, constantly waiting "just a little longer." So put a cap on how long you'll wait before tackling an edit. My personal cap's a month, though I'm an edit-as-I-go type of writer.
(Note: If writing is your business, you'll want to figure out writing methods that let you only need to wait for a day or week. Clients generally won't give you an extra year on a deadline.)
(And it's best to work on something else while you wait, to help you forget.)
If it's handwritten, start by typing it; if it's typed, start by changing the font (if not font size or margins) between every pass.
Why? It'll move things around, so you have to focus on what you're reading. You won't subconsciously remember the last word on the third page as on; instead, it might show up in the middle of the fourth page and therefore reveal itself as an of.
Now, when you get down to the final pass, it's best to work on a printed page. A printed page will make it easier to find errors, but it'll take more time to fix those errors. You can print it yourself or set up a POD version on CreateSpace and use that for the final proof.
Everyone has "pet" words and techniques and problems, things they're prone to in their writing.
So as you learn what your weak points are, take notes. And make checklists.
Maybe you often confuse lay and lie. Maybe you like sentence fragments too much. Maybe you often find yourself using said or –ly words.
Every Word Processor these days has a Find & Replace function—take advantage of it!
Say there's a word that you find yourself spelling differently while you edit. Make a note of it, then search for it at the end.
Also make a note to double-check capitalization and punctuation of things you have trouble with. For example, in "Say hi to Mom" and "Say hi to my mom"
This is another one that helps everyone; either you read it aloud (mumbling to yourself) or you let your computer or Kindle or something read it to you. This'll help you hear problem areas.
It's also a bit harder to misread that on as of when a computerized voice says it.
Hint #1: Anything that's a tongue-twister to day is confusing to read.
Hint #2: Get out of breath? Your line's too long and it'll lose readers.
Enjoy those 5 methods to help you micro-edit!
(You might've noticed that I didn't mention using a beta reader for this stage. There's a reason for it, and let me tell you: If you don't already know my reason, you aren't an exception to my avoidance of mentioning it. ^_^)
What methods do you use? Any here sound like something you'd like to try?