Just as the white space in design makes visual elements stand out, and the space between notes makes music more powerful, what you leave out of your writing can make it more robust. Ruthless editing of your writing requires making hard choices about what stays and what goes once you have developed an initial draft. Here are some strategies to try:
Get in Editing Mode
To get in editing mode, pretend you are your intended reader. Consider the information you have gathered about them, think of their concerns, perspectives, questions, and doubts, and ask yourself, “What is the one thing they want to know from me?”
Insist on Solid Transitions and a Logical Flow of Ideas
Ask yourself if the information being presented would make sense to someone who knows nothing about your topic. Have you provided a compelling introductory “hook” based on your audience’s main concern? Have you created a “chain” of ideas that logically follow one another as the piece progresses, that provide an opportunity for the reader to buy into each idea before presenting a new one, and that are linked via strong transitions?
Eliminate Words That Don’t Add Meaning
Be honest with yourself, and remember that the beautiful words you wrote that now have to be axed can often be used somewhere else.
Listen to Your Gut
If you suspect a word, paragraph, or section should be changed, it probably should. Don’t ignore that nagging feeling that something doesn’t sound quite right. Sometimes it can be hard to identify, but if you keep at it, you will be rewarded with crystal-clear copy.
Don’t Be Afraid to Start Over
Sometimes you must reach the end before you can begin. This doesn’t mean you have failed! It means you have worked through the discovery process that writing often is.
How comfortable are you with editing your own writing? Please share in the comments.
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