I came across this link on Twitter earlier today, on editing your own work on lifehacker.com.
I was a copy editor of the student-run paper at my previous college, and my job entailed making sure work to be published was in the Associated Press style, was grammatically sound, that spellings were correct, facts were accurate, and so on. I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would, and I am considering looking for copy editing positions in the near future, aside from becoming a journalist.
I did write a few pieces, and wish I had written much more, but I was more worried about coursework, and I was working part time at a very popular food and beverage chain. I will write more about that later, for I would really need to choose my words carefully on that one.
I got the impression that I was tweaking others’ work to make them more clear and easy on the eye, especially for those who laid out the pages of the publication.
Since I’m starting to write and publish myself here, I should also start editing myself. I should have been started. I think I’m a little scared to read my work after it’s done. I write when I really cannot shake the urge to do so. I feel I just flow better, and that quite a bit comes out when I’m in this state. I’ve realized that not all criticism is bad, and the only person I can compete with, without losing it, is myself. I am trying to be the best writer/journalist I can be, after all.
Caroline McMillan breaks down the process, the first step being to print out your work. McMillan writes:
As any writer or editor will tell you, critiquing someone else’s work is much easier than deconstructing your own, because outside eyes bring a fresh perspective. To approach your own work critically, you need to simulate this “outsider” perspective by viewing it in a form other than the one you wrote it in.
I don’t need to say how obvious this is.
She also talks about taking a break, deadline-willing. The more time you have from your piece, the more mistakes you may see and better amendments can be made.
Then there’s reading it aloud, and this calls to mind my Voice & Diction class I took last semester. You do want our words to flow, and if they do when read aloud, the piece looks good, and you look good as a writer, too. Right?
Writing for the people you want to read your work is something to always keep in mind. Too many words is not a good thing. Being that I’m a consumer of information, I do find myself getting bored sometimes as an article goes on, even though the subject may interest me, simply for all the possible page turning, scrolling and/or clicking I may have to do.
The next stop is the hardest. Cutting down your piece, and being “ruthless” about it, McMillan wrote. “[…] this will help make sure that the true meat of your piece is what shines.” You want your readers to get something that could be useful to them from your piece, otherwise you’re not only wasting their time, but yours as well. I have learned this with word limits on essays.
The biggest piece of advice I got from this article was this:
When you make a point […] throw yourself behind it. Don’t give the impression that you’re not sure you fully support your own argument.
That advice stuck with me, and you should pay attention to it, too, especially when your career is in play. Don’t weaken your argument with wishy-washy sentences that start with “I believe,” “In my opinion,” and “You may disagree, but…” You’ll see the difference it makes.
This is not going to be easy to get the hang of. I’m even writing this on my phone, not on a computer. My laptop is not even connected to a printer at the moment. But as I said, I need to start somewhere. If that means scrolling up and down this four-inch window that I have, so be it this time around.
I want to, need to put my best foot forward, and my writing will have to speak for me until I get my foot in the door.