Write Drunk; Edit Sober. Tips on Moving From Rough Draft to Publication
By Stephanie Norman
"Write drunk; edit sober.” Hemingway’s quote pretty much sums up the lengthy process between the rough draft and final publication of a literary piece. You write like a maniac when you’re working on the first draft of a big project. You don’t have to be actually drunk, but you’re simply not entirely conscious when the deepest emotions are coming to surface. Once the draft is ready, you need to get in touch with reality.
The editing process demands utmost diligence and commitment. You can’t miss a single word, and sometimes you feel like revising is much harder than writing. The stage between the first draft and publication can get quite annoying, but the following 8 tips will help you get through it.
1. Edit throughout the writing process
This tip probably collides with the practice of most writers. There is a lot of sense in the usual advice that writers get: write first, edit later. Of course you shouldn’t revise each sentence as soon as you write it, then revise each paragraph and page before continuing with the writing. That’s how you get blocked, since you forget all ideas you had.
Yes, editing comes after writing, but this strategy should be flexible when you’re working on a long, complex project. Sometimes you forget to include important ideas you noted down during the brainstorming page. You get the feeling that something is missing, but you can’t figure out what the problem is. It’s difficult to fix these issues if you don’t go through the content on a daily basis.
Leave some time for quick editing at the end of the day. Go through your notes and check if you diverted from the plan. It will be easy for you to fix the problems before they get you in more trouble. This daily editing practice will be mostly superficial; you’ll leave the really diligent revisions for the end.
2. Stay open-minded when you analyze the rough draft
This is probably the longest stage of the post-writing process. Do not start with basic proofreading and editing. First, you need to understand what you wrote. When you read and analyze the first draft, you will keep getting new ideas. Don’t ignore them. Write notes and think if those ideas can help you add more depth to the story.
Take some time off the work after the first read. Spend a week in walking, watching movies and eating good food. Then, get back to it. Suddenly, everything will make sense. You’ll read the draft with new enthusiasm and you’ll be able to notice the flaws. Some parts will need more background information, and some paragraphs will be completely unnecessary. Don’t be afraid to make the needed corrections at this point; they will only make the draft better. Take as much time as necessary. During the first big edit, you focus on essence, not form.
3. Take your time to proofread!
When you’re done with the first stages of the editing process, you’ll read your manuscript again. This time, you’ll focus individually on every single word, punctuation mark, sentence, paragraph, and chapter. The software you’re using will give you some hints about typos and grammar errors, but you shouldn’t be completely dependent upon it. Don’t read too many pages per day; you won’t remain focused for long when you have to pay attention to the tiniest details.
If you have an editor, he will certainly polish out the manuscript before publication. However, that doesn’t mean you can submit a messy draft. You have to proofread it.
4. Change the format
The editing stage is very efficient when you change the format. If, for example, you used MS Word on your laptop to write the draft, you can now view it on a tablet. You’ll get an even more objective point of view when you print it out.
Your eyes are used to the form of the word processor you’re using. When you see the text on another device or in print, you’ll be able to spot more misspellings and grammar errors.
5. Ask for someone’s opinion
You can’t move from draft to publication without making sure you wrote something the audience would love to read. There is no better way to get insights; you simply need to ask. If you have close friends or family members who can turn into reliable critics, share the manuscript with them. Ask them to be honest and be ready to face the criticism.
If they notice some inconsistencies, you’ll fix them before the publication. It’s okay if they have questions; that means your work made them think. However, if you notice that they didn’t understand your point, think about filling in some gaps.
6. Edit again. This time, keep the target reader on mind
Once you get the opinions of your test readers, you’ll definitely need to make some revisions. It doesn’t matter if the process is already taking too long; don’t be disappointed! Think about the remarks you got from your readers. Each and every one of them is important. Contemplate about them and be honest to yourself: did they have a point? If the answer is yes, try to make revisions that will make the piece clearer and more intriguing.
7. Read it out loud
You know you’re not done yet, but you are getting really close to the publication stage. You’ll gain much more confidence in yourself when you approach the text from a reader’s viewpoint. Forget that you wrote that manuscript and start reading it out loud. If you can find someone to read it to you, this stage will be even more effective. You’ll both locate the subtle mistakes, and you’ll make the final corrections before moving onto the next step.
8. Find a good editor
After all this work, it would be great to publish that book/article/short story and have a nice break before starting to work on new projects. However, it’s absolutely necessary to get your work revised by a professional editor. Great writers have great editors for a reason. Without this connection, the masterpieces that continue to impress us wouldn’t be that great.
Start looking for the perfect editor before you finish the draft. This person should understand your voice. The final adjustments should not affect your personality; they should just improve your work and make it more readable.
Don’t Forget to Publish!
There is one trap many writers fall in: they turn the editing stage into an endless process because they never think their work is good enough for the readers. Don’t be one of those people who save impressive manuscripts in a drawer for years! Do your best to go through all stages that separate the rough draft from the publication. Find a good editor and make the final step: publish the piece and get ready to face the reactions.
Stephanie Norman from Sydney has been a contributing blogger and professional writer for 4 years. She writes creative content covering content marketing, writing, and inspirational issues. Also, sometimes she provides editing services as a freelancer forAustralian Writings, a company that offers assignment help for students. You can follow her at Facebook and Google+.