Editing Your Writing: Dress Rehearsal and Prepping for Publication
In my third and final chapter chronicling the editing process, I want to highlight the reason for editing at all: getting the piece ready to publish. The following are the finishing touches that a writer puts on their work. It may take days, weeks, months, or even years to get to this point, but in the end, it adds experience and another completed piece for their portfolio, and, hopefully, a little compensation.
A Fresh Pair of Eyes
Whenever I see a novel that is over 400 pages, I wonder how many edits it went through before the author showed it to anybody and how long each edit took. Even after dozens of edits, you are still bound to find a mistake or two. It is possible for multiple people to miss one little, or even big, mistake. Despite this, it is crucial to have somebody you trust read your work. They don’t have to have a red pen in hand while reading, but even if their main function is just to support you and not offer criticism, you should still encourage them to point out crucial errors or question if something doesn’t look or sound right. If you are nervous about bruising your ego, find somebody you can trust who will be constructive and not embarrass you or condescend your work.
One immensely helpful tool to take advantage of while editing is a writer’s workshop. Other writers will be sensitive to the amount of work and emotion that you have put into your writing. I have never known anyone in a writer’s group to offer anything but support, even if they do find major problems with your piece. One recent writer’s group that I joined provided some very helpful suggestions with the beginning of my new novel, helping me to create a less confusing timeline for my young readers as the story skips around a bit in the first 50 pages. They helped me to see what I wasn’t putting on the page but what I meant to convey in order to paint a picture of where my main character is at the beginning of the story versus where she had been before the events of the story take place.
Once you are given your positive reinforcement from a friend, family member, or fellow writers, consider having your piece professionally edited. It’s not necessary, but if you really want an unbiased opinion of your piece, it is the best way to go before it is rejected by numerous publishers, agents, etc. Traditional publication is already a lottery, and you will have an added advantage with a professional editor on your side. Find one who will fix your spelling mistakes and offer feedback on your content in a complete editing package.
The final stage of editing is formatting your piece for publication. Are you writing for a particular publication that has specific formatting guidelines? Even if you aren’t, there is still a standard way to format your writing before submitting it for publication. Is it an article that uses the MLA, APA, or Chicago formatting styles? If so, get yourself a reference book. Every comma and period counts in this instance, especially in your reference section.
For prose or poetry, elaborate fonts are always forbidden. Here are some basic formatting guidelines for these types of writing:
- Keep the size at 11-12 point font, even in on your title.
- Don’t include a border, widen the margins, or mess with the page size.
- Find out if it needs to be double spaced.
- Include your contact information in the appropriate corner of the page, and make sure that you have included all desired information.
- Use only black ink.
- Keep poems aligned to the left hand margin, including its title.
- Make sure all pieces fit any word count guidelines.
Follow all instructions closely, and alter your piece to fit the specifications of each publication, even if the instructions are to paste it into the body of the query email you will be sending. Leave no doubt in your mind that the piece needs more work so that you don't get that feedback from the places that are receiving your submission.
Editing is the least glamorized and talked about aspect of the writing process, yet there is so much to it. It’s not something to take lightly, and it’s something that I am still working on strengthening in my own writing process. Hopefully, this series of articles will prompt you to put all that you have into editing your work. After all, success in your writing is dependent on editing. It paints a realistic picture of how much work still needs to be done before your writing is ready to be seen by the world. It also gives you an idea of the quality of the work that you have produced. I know that if my work is good enough to review over and over again, it will eventually be good enough to publish. I hope that you will come to recognize that in your own work as well. Good luck!