Do you struggle to edit your stories? Is editing the bogeyman in your closet, stalking your nightmares? Have you ever been hip deep in a revision of your novel and thought “There has to be a better way?” Well there is. What I am about to tell you right now, what you will leanr hear, will make an editing superhero out of you. This is the single greatest tip for editing your writing that you will ever find anywhere.
Are you ready?
Are you sure?
Here it is, the one thing that can instantly make your editing go wonderful smoother.
(Pause for applause)
I know, I know, you’re thinking, “Paul, that’s crazy, lunatic talk. What possible use could post-it notes ever have in writing!?” Soooooo many uses!!!! They have a plethora of applications!
Or one. One that I’m going to talk about, anyway.
The Horror of Editing Your Own Work
As writers we’re all going to need to edit our work at some stage. Except me, of course, my writing comes out crystal clear. Every story is like a perfectly formed diamond snowflake. But for the rest of you, you need to edit. Most of us, as poor struggling artists, can’t afford fancy-arse editors or qualified professionals to do the work for us. So we just have to battle through on our own. It’s not easy and I know I struggled that one time I had to revise a sentence. And I’m sure many others of you do too. So it was with optimism I read this post on Editing Your Work from K M Weiland’s website.
The article lists 7 very helpful tips for editing your own work and serves as a framework for helping you clearly and effectively edit your own work. It’s a great basis for tackling this most daunting of writer’s tasks.
I’ve always struggled with editing my own work and I think if you can afford or manage it, paying a professional to look over your work at least once in your life would be a great eye-opener. Because, let’s face it, no matter how many times you go over your work, chances are you’re never going to be 100% or even 75% sure it’s as good as it can be and, if worse comes to worst, you could end up overworking it.
The Continuing Magic That is Post-it Notes
There is one tip in the article which I think I actually misread from somewhere or half-read and misinterpreted:
“Write Yourself Notes Before You Edit Your Own Writing
“Read your complete novel, poem, story, or essay—without editing. Write yourself notes about possible changes you might want to make so you don’t forget them. If you attempt to edit your work as you’re reading it, you’ll get caught up in rewriting and never move forward or see the piece as a whole.”
Now, for some reason, my alcohol addled brain somehow took this in and came out with “Make notes on your writing as you go”. Not to be confused with editing as you go which is a road to ruin, this involves capturing little thoughts or ideas you may have missed 3 paragraphs back.
You know that point when you’re writing your novel or story and something happens and you’re like “Oh! I should have foreshadowed that 2 pages back. I’m an idiot with fruit mince pie for brains!” That’s what this is for. You can pull out that post-it note and scribble down what should have happened and whack it on your manuscript 2 pages ago.
Generally, I do my original writing on the train into work. Scribbling away in my notebook. Now I am not quick-witted. I’m not that guy with the witty comebacks and the lightning sense of humour. I am what could charitably be called a slow-burner. I’m that guy in conversations who jumps in with a remark five minutes after the rest of the conversation has moved on. I’m basically George Costanza in “The Comeback”
So as of this week I’ve started carrying a set of post-it notes with me while I write. If an idea occurs to me after I’ve already written a scene, instead of going back and rewriting it, agonising over it, or, worst of all, committing it to memory and then completely forgetting it, I can jot it down on the post-it note, stick it to the relevant page of my burgeoning manuscript and hey presto, when I come back to edit here’s all these little notes adding extra flavour. It’s the easiest thing in the world. It only takes a second so it doesn’t break your flow. And it gets those niggling little thoughts out of your head so you can focus on pushing the story forward.
Of course, if you’re more technologically adept than me and don’t write longhand than this advice is likely completely useless to you.
Do you use post-its in your own work? What tricks do you use to make editing your writing easier going? Let me know down below.