DIY Edit: 01 A New Hat

Even though I’m an editor for hire, I firmly believe in self-editing. For one, it helps you develop your skills as a writer because it forces you to learn to analyze your own work. For two, you’ll get more from a professional editor because if you’ve already caught simple mistakes, an editor can spend more time on complicated issues. For three, if you decided to hire me, it makes my life easier. 😉

Because I’m a proponent of do-it-yourself editing, each month I’m going to drop a tip for developing your ability to edit your own work or identify things to look for as you edit.

01 A New Hat

Editing your own work can be a tricky thing, but it is not impossible. When editing your own work, one of the most important steps is to create distance between you and your work. One of the best ways to create distance is to recognize the difference between your role as a writer and your role as an editor.

The Writer is the person who has lovingly nurtured the manuscript into its current state. Every sentence makes sense (even when words are missing) and typos and grammatical errors disappear in front of the writer’s eyes. The writer loves the characters, understands the plot innately, and can perfectly see every aspect of the setting and character description. The world is completely alive for the writer because the writer is the creator.

The Editor is the person who is going to dissect the manuscript to highlight the strengths, illuminate the weaknesses, and identify as many typos and grammatical errors as possible. The editor comes to the manuscript as a blank slate. Everything the editor knows about the world is from the words on the page. An editor will read slowly and carefully to catch errors both in the language and in the continuity. The editor’s job is to identify what the writer needs to do so that the manuscript will translate more easily from the page to a reader’s imagination.

Switching between these roles can be difficult, but the more you distinguish the tasks, the easier it will be. Keep the jobs separate and don’t preform writer tasks on an editor day. When you’re editing you must look at the work objectively. You have to distance yourself from the mental images that already exist and build those images from the words on the page. The key role of an editor is to find what needs to be strengthened, changed, or even rewritten. After you finish analyzing the manuscript as an editor, then you address those issues from the role of the writer. Keeping these roles separate is a great way to start learning to edit your own work.


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2 replies
  1. Jonathan
    Jonathan says:

    Great information here! It’s sometimes hard to find that balance and separation but it is a must when editing one’s work.

    • Alli
      Alli says:

      Agreed! If you can learn to look at your work objectively it’s easier to identify what’s working and what you’re just in love with.


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