Tag: editing

How to Get the Most Out of the Editing Process

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When you hand your masterpiece over to someone to fix, tweak, tighten, or double-check, make sure you are very clear about your expectations.  Not all editors have the same focus or technique and rather than assume he/she will bring you the results you are looking for it is up to you to communicate what you want.

For instance, let’s say you sent out  a resume or a blog to five people for their edits and feedback.  Chances are that besides common grammatical issues, each one of the edited versions would be different.  Why?  Because editing is a subjective process if little direction is provided.

Maintaining Your Voice

Just as we each have a unique style, diction, tone and delivery in our verbal communications, so are we different in our writing styles.  If you tend to write in long sentences and your editor is more concise and direct, guess what?  Most often, your piece will come back reading like him or her and not like you.  Sure, the content will be tightened, which has tremendous value but you may have lost your voice in the process.  This is particularly important if you are a speaker or consistently appear in the media, in which case your audience is expecting your book to sound like you do on stage, television or the radio.

Tip:  Tell your editor that you insist on the piece remaining authentic to your voice. For instance, combining all of your fragmented sentences or shortening the descriptive ones may “read” better from a grammar perspective, but it may also create a disconnect with your followers who expect it to sound like you.  Think celebrity Twitter updates – you can probably tell who writes their own and who has ghost-tweeters.

Honoring Your Audience

By the time you have reached any editing stage, you are very clear about who you are addressing in your book.  You know the demographics and you have kept them in mind while you crafted your content.  Make sure your editor is also very clear to whom you are speaking.  Just because you are writing a management book does not mean your audience are college-educated, experienced managers.  You may have decided to tap into the new manager market and if your editor is not aware of your primary focus, he/she may rewrite your content for a higher level of reader.

Tip:  Provide the demographics to your editor upfront. Be clear about your decision to use the phrases and examples you have included so your manuscript does not come back unrecognizable and you have not alienated your audience.

Communicating your template

You may have brought in an editor at an earlier stage of the writing process, perhaps to perform the role of collaborator.  This relationship can have a learning curve to it as he/she works through providing the meat of the content in the way that you prefer.  There is no reason for you to spend your time redlining a piece to death and crushing the spirit of your collaborator because you did not get what you wanted the way you wanted it.

Tip:  Provide samples and templates. If you have already produced similar pieces, provide them to your collaborate as well as a detailed description of the points you want addressed and the format you are expecting.

Matching Your Styles

In addition to having similar writing styles, it is important to also find someone who matches up with your style of content.  Your uncle who is an academic clinician should not be editing your non-fiction parenting book.

Tip:  Research your editor’s past and present clients. Is there a similarity in both topic and audience?  Make sure there is a solid fit rather than just going with your first referral.

Protecting Your Ego

Even though 82% of people surveyed said they had a book inside of them and intended to write one some day, very few have the one thing to follow through with their dream – and it’s not what most people talk about.  It is not a lack of time or talent.  It’s courage.  Many people lack the courage to put their thoughts, expertise and opinions on paper for the whole world to see.  It takes a thick skin to be criticized when there is no taking back what is now in written form.  You will have people say they don’t agree with you, that your sentences are too long, that you didn’t cover the topics they were interested in, and so on.  Writing is a very personal process and it can be easy to have your feelings hurt when your pride and joy comes back looking wounded.

Tip:  Remember the reason you started writing in the first place. If you were determined to tell your story, teach or motivate others, or be a valued resource, then do it.  Make sure your editor knows your motivation (he/she should have asked you that during your first meeting.)  You can’t please everyone so don’t try to be everything.  Ask your editor for constructive feedback and in some cases make them explain their thought process behind the changes.

Interview and hire your editor the same way you would a key employee in your company.  Your editor should stay consistent with your vision and mission, represent your brand well, and in the end, make you look damn good!

How to Edit Your Own Writing. Getting Back to Basics.

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These tips are for anyone interesting in creating quality content for books, blogs, ebooks, newsletters, ezines, and even daily email correspondence.  Getting back to the basics is a great way to tackle a process that appears overwhelming or mystifying.

So What: You might have a pretty good idea why you are writing a book, ebook, newsletter, etc., but are you sure you know why someone should read it?  What are your take-aways?  What do you hope the reader would learn?  How can it or will it make a difference in their lives?

Theme Party: You have already determined why someone should read your content therefore you are half way there.  You have a theme.  You have a driving force for continuity, but are you continuously making the connection, threading that theme throughout the product?  It may seem obvious to you that each step, tool, story or strategy is related to the overall premise, but make sure you take the time to reinforce it with clarity.  But let’s be clear:  Continuity does not mean redundancy.  Threading is not the same as repeating.  There is the old adage of “Tell them what you are going to tell them.  Tell them.  Then tell them what you’ve told them.”  Yes, this is true, just don’t hammer it into your reader or they will perceive this, and you, as not respecting their intelligence.

Too Much Good Stuff:
I often have clients come to me when they have been told by a publisher that they need to cut their word count by 25-30%.  Their expressions range from “But I don’t want to cut any of the stories or tools” or “I keep rereading it and I don’t see how I can cut anything.”

For most of us, being told that our work needs tightening is a bit ambiguous.  It is easier for a publisher to say, and an author to hear, “you need to cut 2,000 words”. The end result, when done correctly, is the same. By looking for effective ways to cut word count, the writing becomes tighter and the manuscript reads better.  You will find redundancy in your message and extraneous words that may be part of your day-to-day diction but have no real place or purpose in your manuscript. The thesaurus feature is a great tool for eliminating the redundancy of your most popular word choices.  (See previous blog post, The Best Concise Writing Tip I Ever Learned for more details.)

My Two Tense Worth: Are you telling a story in the past or present tense?  Pick one and go back through your writing to make sure it all matches.  For instance, do you write, “we were expected to have our PowerPoint presentation available be at the event so I write the last few slides, I upload the graphics and I will send it off to my assistant to print and bind the hard copies.”  Can you see how the beginning was in the past tense of “we were expected” and then suddenly all of the verbs that follow are in the present tense “write, upload, send.”  It is very easy to slip back and forth when you verbally tell a story, but you have to be very careful when you put pen to paper.

Step away from the screen, there is nothing to see here, folks: Ever go back to an important email you sent or a blog you posted and find a mistake?  You have no idea how you could have missed it.  Simple, it is your work and your brain sees what it means, not necessarily what is on the screen.  You may have forgotten the “it”, “do”, or used the wrong “their/there”, etc. and each time you initially reread it before you hit Send or Publish you could have sworn it was there.  Save it and walk away for an hour or even a day.  Fresh eyes are a key to making the obvious, well, more obvious.

Double Vision: You may think it is a masterpiece, it is exactly what you intended to say or wonder how there could ever be anything left to improve upon.  Nice thought, but reach out to your network, your colleagues and a professional trained to make improvements.  This second set of eyes is priceless but you need to remember to check your ego at the door.  Nothing can zap your self-confidence more than the colored evidence of Track Changes splattered all over your precious work of art.  Remember that you asked for suggestions and improvements and the result is your reader’s professional and sometimes personal opinion of what will make it better.  Take what you want and leave the rest.

There is a lot to be gained by refining your writing abilities.  Just as you are considered articulate based on your strong vocabulary,  so will you hold expert status by others based on your clear, concise and well-written products.

The Best Concise Writing Tip I Ever Learned

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Ever read a blog, an article, or an entire book and thought, “Wow, the author could have told me that in a few bullet points, a couple of paragraphs, or without those extra 100 pages”?

I learned the most basic and most critical tip for how to write more concisely in my English class back in middle school. I had to write a story about a personal event and was given only a time limit. When the class was finished the teacher asked us to count the number of words in our story.  I wrote about 1,000 words and was feeling very proud of myself, as if I had accomplished a great feat.

The teacher told us to take that same story and write it with HALF the number of words.  I did not believe it could be done, and my ego told me it was a perfect story just the way it was.   Reluctantly I started crossing out all of the unnecessary words.  When I recounted my words, I was surprised that I was able to cut the length in half and still tell a good story.

Once again, the teacher told us to cut that second version in half.  This time it was more difficult and I was forced to think of ways I could replace entire phrases or sentences with fewer words.  I was honing my writing skills and I didn’t even know it. When my 250-word story was finished, it was much better because I had carefully chosen words that kept the story interesting.

Note to Self: Writing and editing can be a very cerebral and complicated process, but don’t let it overwhelm you.  Go back to the basics, and back to the 7th grade: Count your words and start to see what you can do without.  It really works and it also respects the value of your readers’ time.

P.S. This blog was originally 566 words and with two attempts I was able to reduce it to 314 words.  To view the first version, click on the link below.
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