Let’s face it; editing your work can be a time-consuming, and costly exercise, although one that is vital to successful writing.
There are a few things you can do to jump-start your edits. Obviously start with the spelling and grammar checkers that come with most word processors. While simplistic, it will catch some basic errors.
There are also a number of FREE Online programs that are extensions to browsers such as Chrome. Many of these can scan your document and point out the obvious mistakes. These include After the Deadline, Grammar and Spelling by Ginger, Slick Write, Language Tool, and many more. There are also some low cost options out there as well.
Before undertaking any self-editing, you should put your story aside for a few days (at least), so that the familiarity of it diminishes slightly. While it is still imprinted in your memory, a little distance allows you to catch things you missed the first few read-throughs.
Depending on your computer system; your computer should also be able to read your work back to you in a voice of your choice. Hearing your words read back to you make it much easier to catch mistakes and poor sentence structure.
Even better is to ask a friend or family member to read your story aloud to you.
There is a huge difference in how the brain identifies speech through auditory processing versus how the brain identifies speech through visual pathways.
My opinion as to why this happens is based on the three to five year gap between a baby/child identifying sounds heard, versus learning to read. Your ears have so much more training than your eyes, or at least your brain has more training through those pathways. Even after you know how to read, you listen far more than you read.
Your Eyes Lie to You!
Here is a test for you: Read the following out loud at normal speed.
Did you read it? Did it say: PARIS IN THE SPRING IS LOVELY TO SEE AND TO VISIT?
Are you sure? Read it again.
Aha! Did you catch it this time? Some of you are still not sure what I am talking about. Let me help you.
It does not read: PARIS IN THE SPRING IS LOVELY TO SEE AND TO VISIT!
Honestly, it doesn’t. There are TWO “THE” words. It reads PARIS IN THE THE SPRING….
There point is that YOUR EYES LIE TO YOU! As a writer you must understand that your brain edits everything you see. It ASSUMED you meant only one THE and so it edited out the second one. It is a brain trick. What it confirms, however, is that you cannot believe what your eyes show you.
And that is why using your EARS is an excellent way to catch many errors. It is also why YOU should not read aloud. If you read the story, your eyes will see errors that your brain will edit (again) and pass over. You need to HEAR your story from someone else. That is why the computer voice works just as well.
Once you have passed through these few suggestions, you can re-read your work using a RULER so you are focused on line-by-line reading. This way you are focused on the pieces of the line/sentence, rather than reading for pleasure, a more generalized, and higher speed, reading.
In a future article, I will discuss various paid editing services that are affordable and effective. Let me know your thoughts on this tip and other tips you have learned. If you want to stay updated with more tips, sign up for our free newsletter (monthly) > HERE