C.J. Cherryh, author of more than 60 books since the mid-1970’s, summed it up best when she said “It’s perfectly okay to write garbage, as long as you edit brilliantly.”
The craft of writing, particularly online, is always in danger of becoming extinct. Whether it’s lack of attention from readers, who apparently, according to some studies, now have a 9-second attention span, or the power of visuals, the written word seems to no longer be in vogue.
So how do you convey what needs to be said in written format and still hold the audience’s attention? After all, there are times where that dialog is important. The simple truth is you must learn to be a great editor.
Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.
~ Henry David Thoreau
Editing is mostly science; brilliant editing is an art. Editing so that the piece left has a beautiful rhythm and resonates with the audience is key. Otherwise, you are hacking out words for no reason.
Good editing first requires an understanding of the target audience. Why are we writing this piece? Why do they care? Then you must keep in mind how to draw them in. For me, that is the rhythm of a piece. It’s like music – it should have a flow that keeps you engaged. You want to “feel” the emotion from the page.
I can’t write five words but that I change seven. ~ Dorothy Parker
Brilliant editing is a system, not just a once-over of a piece to look for typos.
5 Powerful Editing Tips
- Read it in its entirety. If you do not know what the entire piece says, you cannot edit the beginning to fit the end.
- Create a knock-out first paragraph. People skim and scan, so make those first few words really count.
- Make it easy to scan. Scan the entire piece to see if you can understand the meaning without reading every word.
- Look for flow. Does it flow from one paragraph to the next and from one idea to the next? Transitions are often a weak point in written pieces.
- Read it out loud. And time yourself. If you stumble over word choices, change them. If you start to feel bored, shorten it. If it takes you too long to read it, make it two pieces.
Writing is not dead; it’s just in need of an adjustment to fit the needs of a very busy, overwhelmed audience. Make the length appropriate for the audience desire and then, make sure you edit brilliantly.
What are the steps you take to ensure your writing and editing is top notch?