Even though I’m an editor for hire, I firmly believe in self-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. Make sure to check out all the DIY Edit Tips to improve your self-editing.
One of the trickiest things when editing your own work is achieving objectivity. There are a number of ways you can go about creating objectivity in relation to your own work. Keep an eye out for tips on “Creating Distance” if objectivity is one of your main obstacles to being your own best editor.
02 Creating Distance: Time
Giving your story some time to rest before starting an editing pass is one of the best ways to distance yourself from your work. Time allows your writer memory to fade and helps make details hazy, giving yourself a fresh set of eyes. While you previously could recite all of chapter 12 from memory, after a month away, you may only be able to roughly recall the events and your favorite lines. For the purposes of self-editing, this is a good thing.
As you create distance from your work, it allows your editor brain to more easily identify when something is missing (from a plot hole to missing words in a sentence), and it makes it a little easier to catch unnecessary repetitions. From the plot and structure to the sentence construction, taking time away from your work allows your eyes to rest and you can start seeing your work from a new perspective.
For novels or novellas, my preference is to set aside the story for two months. For short stories two weeks is usually sufficient. Sometimes deadlines or other complications demand a shorter cooling-off period, so, if that is the case, I put the story down for as much time as I can allow. Waiting to edit helps me shift from being a writer to being an editor, and generally lets me gain a little perspective before acting as my own reviewer. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
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