We usually talk about being a great writer. But most great writers are also great publishers because their first drafts are likely to be far from perfect.
So, see how to be a great editor of your work and make people think you’re also a great writer.
Step 1. Plan what you are going to write
Okay, so this is not technically part of the editing process. But planning what you’re going to say before you start writing will make the editing process a lot easier.
It is much easier to set up a good structure at the beginning than to rearrange entire paragraphs later to try to create one.
I regularly start by building an outline of the content I’m creating. I write down the main points I want to cover and then organize them into a structure so that I can easily move from one point to another and take the reader on a journey.
On stage, everything is very analytical and logical.
But once I have my outline, I can become more creative, because I no longer need to think about the structure. I just follow my outline.
Sometimes, a new idea pops into my head while I’m writing the content. When that happens, I take a step back and see if it fits the structure I created. If I can, I will add it to my sketch and write again. And if it doesn’t, then I write it down (if I can use it in a future post) and write again.
Step 2. Let your post rest for a while
Our brains have two hemispheres. The right hemisphere deals with creativity and imagination and is what we use most when we are writing. But editing is a much more analytical and logical process, which is what the left hemisphere of our brain deals with.
(Have you tried editing while writing and ended up feeling frustrated? It’s because the two sides of your brain are practically struggling with each other).
But shifting your thinking from the creative side of the brain to the analytical side takes a little time. So, when you’re done writing your post, let it rest for a while before you start editing it. It may take an hour or two, or it may be a day.
But try not to think about it too much during this time, so that you can come back to it with a clear mind and also a logical mind. Just don’t take so long that you lose interest in it.
Another advantage of waiting a while is that you won’t feel so attached to your words when you return. And this is important when it comes to editing because it is likely that many of them need to be eliminated.
Step 3. Look at the big picture
You let your post rest for a while and are now ready to start editing. But before delving into the details, you should ask yourself these questions about your post from a ‘big picture’ perspective. And continue editing your post until you are satisfied with the responses.
Does that have a point?
Is there a benefit for my readers? You may find that you just wrote to get something out of your chest.
Will this change my readers’ lives in any way?
Is ‘fleshy’ enough? You may need a little more depth, another example, or perhaps some links for further reading.
Am I being too repetitive? Could you combine some of your ideas to eliminate repetition?
Are my ideas in the right order? Do they flow logically? This is where it’s worthwhile to plan your structure before you start writing.
Did I go off on a tangent or did I include information that didn’t really ‘fit’? That’s why it’s good to let your post get some rest. You won’t mind getting rid of that unnecessary information so much.
Would you choose to read this piece if it had been written by someone else?
Step 4. Focus on cutting things
No matter how well you think you wrote your post, you are likely to be able to cut out words, phrases, or even paragraphs without losing anything good.
So cut the fat and save the meat.
Do you take a few paragraphs to clarify what your post is about? You need to hook the reader to the first paragraph, so try to edit those opening paragraphs in a strong paragraph that gets straight to the point.
Does your conclusion falter a little? Try to cut it too so that it stays in the minds of readers long after they finish reading your post.
Are there any phrases that don’t add any useful information? Get rid of them.
Step 5. Observe the details
So far, you’ve looked at the overall structure of your post and added and removed large chunks of information. Now it’s time to take a closer look at your post – line by line, and even word for word.
Unfortunately, you are reasonably so familiar with the words now that your brain will make corrections for you as you read. You need a way to see it with new eyes.
I usually ask someone else to read what I wrote and let me know about any problems they encounter. But if I can’t get someone else to read it, I print a copy, read it slowly sentence by sentence, and circle any problems I encounter with a red or green pen.
I also read my article out loud. Not only does this help me find problems that I missed reading in my mind, but it also makes it obvious whether a sentence is too long or doesn’t sound as colloquial as it could be.
If it’s an important post, I’ll also read it out loud to someone else. You become very aware of how it sounds and can alert you to problems that you may have missed.
Finally, I will do what I call visual editing by clicking the Preview button on WordPress to see how it will look when it is published.
Step 6. Make an SEO edit
You should always write for your users, not for search engines. But before I click publish, I think of the words people would type on Google to find my post. And then I try to interweave some of those words into the title, the opening paragraph, and maybe even the URL.
Step 7. Publish your post
You should take the time to edit your posts before you post them. But don’t get too obsessed with it. At some point, you need to stop editing and click ‘Publish’.
Because it will never be perfect. And you can always come back and fix any problems you encounter later.