Top 5 Editing Tips

Editing can be a point of great confusion and contention for young writers, and especially so for those who haven’t truly made themselves a part of the fold (knowing the lingo, popular authors, embracing nerd-dom, that kind of thing). Luckily, the benevolent successful authors are willing to impart their wisdom for a mere like, share, and subscribe (a small price to pay for power) and here are the top five things (in my experience fused with that of actually great authors) that need paying attention to while editing.

5. Listen to the “criticism” your family and close friends give you, but take it with a grain of salt. To be honest, it’s not really criticism. Because it’s coming from someone they love (i.e., you) their opinion will be tainted. There is literally no way that your parents, siblings, or cousins will give you a fair shake.

Now, don’t worry: your family is not a lot of liars. They just can’t be trusted to give you an honest opinion about your work. They may be able to offer some valuable insight (which is why I recommend doing it in the first place) into your story, but that’s nothing compared to professional-grade advice. But ask their opinion anyway: you’ll get things from them that you wouldn’t from a pro.

4. Befriend writers whose work you deem professional-level and get their take on your story. Following on the heels of my last point, you need to find someone who you deem to be a pro. You assess that the person in question can write well enough to earn their bread. If they can, you might want to ask them for advice.

You could always reach out to well-known authors and writing teachers for advice. See if there’s a way of contacting your favorite author, screenwriter, or director. Select a piece of your finest work and let them have a read, then ask them to give you feedback on your work. It may be a long shot (who knows?) but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.

3. Enhance your “cool” by cooking up details to edit into the story. Narratively speaking, no one wants to buy a story that is a “mere” fantasy. Or a “mere” science fiction. They want a fantasy with slayed dragons, ventured dungeons, problems solved, princesses saved. They want a science fiction with thrilling space battles, mole hunts, superweapons, and high-stakes action.

What do I mean by “cool” details? Well, anything that would add another dimension to the story. “Are you kidding?” Says Peter Falk, the grandfather telling the story in the film The Princess Bride, upon being asked if the book was any good. “Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles…” That’s a list of cool things that go into a story. They’re part of the allure, the this-book-has-giants-in-it feeling. When you’re editing, considering swapping out the hero’s ordinary method of transport of a ship with a dragon, whom he loves and takes care of. Heck, make it a talking dragon.

2. Cut clutter and unnecessary words.

You know, I really like it when people pay attention to what I say, especially considering that I’m an extrovert in public and I don’t normally enjoy attention to me. If we are considering that–the fact that you are now paying attention to me–I would just like to say that it’s very important and necessary to excise, cut, and remove unnecessary words from your pieces of writing. Words cannot express how important this principle is, and you sound like a complete and utter idiot when you do not have the wit nor care to shorten your sentences into readable lines of sense.

You can use a lot of words to say very little. If a word has no purpose, cut it out.

1. If you can make a sentence more compact without severing any of the meaning, do it. Instead of “I would just like to say that it’s very important and necessary to excise, cut, and remove unnecessary words from your pieces of writing.”, try “I would just like to say that it’s very important and necessary to Excise cut, and remove unnecessary words from your pieces of writing.” If you can say a lot with very little, imagine what you can do with so much. Our only problem is that humans (o infallible species!) tend to blather on about nothing when given the space. I naturally write with less clutter, but even I have found this tactic useful.

Note: I’m not saying to strip your sentences down to the basest, barest form all the time. Some sentences need to be naturally more wordy, because they explain more. But if you can say what you said in less words, you probably should. “Brevity is the soul of wit.” writes the poet (Shakespeare, that is). He wasn’t wrong.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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