There are two major types of editing: self-editing and editing by someone else. The second one, from the point of an author, is rather connected to the reaction toward what the external editor suggested should happen to the initial text.
The 5 Minute Perseverance Game has helped me considerably in both cases.
In this blog post, I will address 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Self-Editing.
Independent on what you write, there are two components of self-editing and revision:
- Verifying the text for possible errors and bits that could be improved, and
- Implementation of the edits into the text.
Some authors might do both simultaneously; others do it separately. For example, I often print out extensive files, such as book manuscripts, read them on paper, and make notes which changes need to be made. Later I implement them into files. Afterwards, I repeat the procedure, sometimes varying the format of the text to be verified. One of the last versions I check is often in e-book format to see how it works there.
If the file is a shorter one (e.g., one page long) or it is an e-mail, then I usually verify and implement changes in one go.
I am sure that many authors do the same varying their practices depending on the text they are working with.
Let’s put the small files and e-mail messages aside. Then it is clear that the editing of large manuscripts might seem overwhelming. If you attempt to get done with it, I guarantee that you will become frustrated and make many mistakes.
Separating the components above into two distinct stages makes very much sense and is recommended by many writers. If you read guides on self-editing, you will see that many successful writers (Stephen King, Joanna Penn, and other) suggest reading and editing on paper.
The division of self-editing into reading plus making notes and first later implementing also allows you to be more thorough in your edits because during the incorporation of your edits into the text you might discover additional edits needed. So your writing becomes more qualitative.
But slicing the self-editing into two steps is not enough for larger documents. These two stages of self-editing are still too massive to do in one piece, especially when you self-edit one of the earlier drafts of your manuscript.
I can’t tell you exactly how little the self-editing steps should be for me to feel comfortable and doable. When the text flows nicely, then editing of a ten-page chapter might seem like an easy and small step, whereas a messy paragraph can send me into moaning, which is followed by tedious rewriting or cutting.
Reading about kaizen, the taking-small-steps philosophy and technique, helped to understand what was happening here.
Robert Maurer, whom I mentioned in the article “The 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Kaizen” in this series, has written the following in his acclaimed book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way :
“Even the small signs that you are resisting the small step — are an indication that the step is too big.”
So I can’t say for sure that editing a paragraph is a smaller step than revising a page or a chapter because I might resist editing a certain sentence or paragraph, but not an entirely different section.
Thus I can experience different parts of my writing in various ways when I am self-editing. But what is the indicator or tool that can help me here and find what I need to change in my writing pieces?
I was reminded of the best answer to this question as I recently watched an interview with Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel, television personality, as well as one of the four judges at the America’s Got Talent (AGT) Show.
After the result’s show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a 12-year-old ventriloquist. Without contemplating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”
In my book Cheerleading for Writers, which will appear soon this year, I call this tool “fun detecting antenna.” In writing, I discovered that if I let myself be led by what is fun for me, then my writing becomes a pleasure to read too. But if I am frustrated about a paragraph, it’s not fun for me to read. Then the probability is high that my readers won’t like it either.
Fun as a tool to find out what to do next is just brilliant. Because in case of a “problematic” sentence or paragraph, the step for me to take is to make it fun or simply delete it.
5 Minute Perseverance Game is both about making small steps with the projects we want to pursue and about having fun while making those steps. I am immensely happy for these two tools to be at hand for me in any activity I take on, including self-editing.
A few questions for contemplation: What is your usual practice when you self-edit your written pieces? Do you try to get it done in one piece (or larger sessions) or do you usually do edit in small chunks every day? And what helps you to identify which parts of your work-in-progress need to be modified and which can stay as they are?
On the picture above: I took five pictures of this snail on my way home after delivering my daughter at her daycare. Watching it climbing through the leaves was simply fascinating. This amazing being is proficient at making small steps.
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels