The biggest breakthrough in my writing career came when I finally separated writing and editing. It was a bitter divorce, but one that had to be made. Before they went their separate ways, I would type a sentence of 15 words and then promptly delete 10 of them. It was a slow and frustrating process, that I’m sure many of you have experienced.
Now I divide the two stages. By not correcting myself as I go I type my initial draft relatively quickly, even if there are glaringly obvious typos. It’s quite liberating to type, knowing that the many typos I’ve ignored will be corrected later. It speeds up the writing process dramatically and has made me a more efficient and creative writer.
I’ll not lie, it takes a while to get used to the concept that writing and editing are entirely different processes. Here are a few tips I’d like to share to help make things a bit easier.
Create a clear outline for what you’re writing. Might sound obvious, but it helps narrows the focus and stops your mind drifting off. (Bonus Tip – I’m a lover of all things digital, but I love handwriting the outline in a notebook.)
Use different writing apps for your writing and editing. I use the iA Writer application that is synched across my iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Air to write my first draft. I edit final drafts in ByWord (another Mac-based writing app) or Microsoft Word. My brain has made the association that iA Writer = Writing and ByWord or Word = Editing.
Take a break between writing and editing phases. I prefer the ‘sleep on it’ approach, but if you are up against a deadline then at least take a break, or work on something else. Task switching is my preferred method if I have to. It keeps my brain in ‘work’ mode.
Take the separation a step further by leaving proofreading to the end of the writing project. I use Grammarly.com to help automate the process before I re-read the content to check for any other errors. If you have a particularly pedantic amateur proofreader (hi Mum!) then hand over your masterpiece to them for inspection.
A proofreader will catch spelling & grammatical errors, but they might miss flaws with the flow of your writing. A great way of picking up on these is to read the content out loud. Better still, record it on your iPhone or dictaphone (do you still get those?) and listen back to yourself. You might cringe and hate the sound of your voice, but it’s a fantastic way to identify any issues with the flow of your writing.
Ban yourself from touching the delete key at all during the writing phase. Some take this a step further either obstruct the Delete key or in some cases – remove it entirely. I couldn’t bring myself to deface my keyboard in such a brutal manner – but with a bit of discipline, such extreme measure aren’t necessary.
Writing is a creative, right-brain activity, and editing is a logical, left-brain activity. Keeping those two opposing beasts as far away from each other is the quickest way to become a more efficient writer. Give these tips a try and let me know how you get on. If you’ve got any of your own tips on separating writing and editing I’d love to hear them.
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