10 Writing and Editing Tips from an Amateur Editor

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

In the midst of the pandemic, I made a lot of impulsive decisions regarding money. More specifically, about how to make money. I wasn’t working and couldn’t go back, but I wanted to contribute to the household expenses in some way, so, lightbulb moment, I thought, why not try to market myself as a freelance editor? I’m a good writer and an even better editor, and it’d be a great way to use my skills while working in an industry that (probably) wouldn’t make me want to step off a bridge.

Not unexpectedly, it failed. Horribly

I didn’t account for the fact that, while I have 20+ years of writing experience, I have zero years of formal editing experience and no degree to back me up. I’m not surprised no one wanted to hire me. I wouldn’t have wanted to hire me. It stings a little, though, because I know I’d be good at it.

Maybe it’s something I can pursue later in my life. For now, I guess I’ll just have to continue giving editing advice for free.

Wait it out
After you finish a piece of writing, don’t start editing right away — wait. Let it rest. Give it some space. Let it percolate in the back of your mind while you focus on other things. When you go back to it, it’ll be with a fresh pair of eyes and a clearer head.

Change it up
When the time comes to start editing, I highly recommend changing the font type and size. Our eyes grow accustomed to looking at the same thing for a long time, so it’s easy to miss mistakes. I usually use Comic Sans at size 14 or 16. I use Comic Sans because it’s annoying and makes me pay attention, and I make the font larger so mistakes are easier to spot.

Listen to it
Another way to make it easier to spot mistakes in your writing is to listen to your writing. Read it out loud yourself, if you must, but I prefer to let Word slog through it with the Read Aloud function.

Don’t sweat it
Clichés and tropes exist for a reason, so go ahead and write that love triangle, or that unlikely detective thriller, or that high fantasy epic. The trick is taking those concepts and making them your own.

Just tell it
Sometimes it’s absolutely okay to just tell it; you don’t always need to show it. Curtains can be just blue and not a physical manifestation of the character’s psyche.

Shut it out
If you can, try to turn off your inner editor and just WRITE without worrying about grammar, syntax, or whether the words even make sense. Written words can be re-written tenfold. Unwritten words only languish in our minds.

Make it colorful
Staring at a screen for long periods of time can lead to eye strain and migraines. One way to reduce discomfort is to change the color of your word docs from a bright white to something easier on the eyes. I like to use a soft gray.

Try it differently
If you find yourself stuck in a rut, change up your writing routine. Sometimes all we need is a breath of fresh air, so try writing outside on nice days. If you normally write on the computer, try the old-fashioned notebook-and-pencil trick. This can even help limit distractions as the Internet is not easily accessible.

Switch it up
Wordiness has its place (hello, Dickens), but if your prose is too wordy, you run the risk of losing readers. Switch up the length and flow of your sentences. Also, pay attention to how many times you use the same word. I generally don’t like to repeat certain words or phrases on a single page. Even every few pages is too much sometimes. I also make sure I’m not starting too many paragraphs in a row with the same word. All these things will help your writing sound more polished.

Don’t force it
Maybe this goes against the advice of other writers who say it’s important to make it a habit to write every day, whether you want to or not. And maybe they’re right; that’s why they’re published and I’ve never finished a manuscript I started. I just think sometimes we shouldn’t force ourselves to write. We shouldn’t think of writing as a chore. If something isn’t working and I’m getting frustrated, I set it aside for a short time. Though I would love nothing more than to make a steady income off my writing, at its essence, writing is more than a job to me; it’s my passion. I don’t want to kill the spark inside me by smothering it.

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