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Whether you’re dashing off a blog post or slaving over your first novel, you know your finished work has to be perfect, right?
If you’re going to wait for perfection, you’ll never publish much of anything.
We’ve all been there: agonizing over our headlines, rewriting our opening sentence or paragraph to create the perfect hook, or searching the thesaurus for exactly the right word. It’s maddening.
Here’s the cure:
Confidence beats perfection every time.
When you write, revise, edit, and proofread with speed and assurance, you’ll be able to press Publish sooner and more often.
Hang on! Let’s race through these tips and checklists for making your writing awesome, not “perfect!”
Does the way you approach your writing and editing matter?
You betcha it does.
While there are laws against distracted driving, writers work with distractions both internal and external all the time. For better results, give these seven tips a try.
If you try only one of those, go for #6 and see how much easier it is to find your “voice.”
“Big Picture” issues are potential results-killers. Maybe your approach is flawed, or your introduction lacks a strong hook, or your chapters need to be rearranged.
The key to any of these problems is collaboration. No writer is an island.
Which of these seven is most important? Hands down, it’s #5.
Writing isn’t really black and white. It is, after all, something of an “art”. If you aren’t sure about any of these 5, go with the prevailing wisdom at first.
Each of these tips comes from someone who edits text for a living. Experienced editors approach their work methodically. You can, too.
Most important skill to develop is to focus on one aspect of editing at a time.
Interestingly, tip #13 may be the most valuable for writers. Keep reading, and you’ll see why.
We’ve covered the big picture writing trips. Most of the following sections of this post address smaller issues.
Of course, the little things add up, too. These are the points that Miss Middlebrook tried to drill into you back in Freshman English. They still matter.
What matters most, in grammarly stuff? Read #12 again. It implies you already know the other 17.
…with helpful and (possibly) humorous internal examples.
Punctuation causes endless consternation for writers. Use and trust your style guide to help ensure consistency in your writing. When in doubt — opt for period, new sentence.
In most cases, you don’t need these–whether in blog posts, short fiction, or full-length works. Of course, you can use these words judiciously for emphasis or tone. Watch for repetition, most of all.
Some word-count or grammar-checking software includes a method to show you which words you’ve used most often. That’s a great way to find and destroy those ten words (and others).
And now, some words your spell-checker won’t catch.
One of the biggest proofreading problems for writers and editors is the mess created by homophones — words that sound the same but are spelled differently. Grammar-checking software tries to catch these, but often fails. Our eyes read write passed them. (See?)
In the English language, three really is a crowd. Homophonic triplets can be every bit as disturbing as that phrase sounds.
Most often, only one of the three causes most of the trouble. The proliferation of texting “shorthand” has only exacerbated this linguistic mess. The best way to route these out is to learn them, cold. (Oops!)
Those homophone (sound-alike) pairs and triplets may be fun to play with, but they cause more manuscript errors than many of the other editing problems added together. That’s because our eyes read what we expect to see, so words that “sound” correct just slide right on by our brains.
On the other hand, misused punctuation makes the larger impression on our reputations as writers.
I know, learning proper punctuation is boring. Take pains to keep your punctuation consistent. That way, you should at least look like you know what you’re doing.
In an ideal world, every writer would have a dozen beta readers, plus an editor and a proofreader on call.
Unfortunately, you have to find and motivate beta readers — and pay editors.
For most writers, patience is your strongest ally for editing. If you approach the process methodically, you can expect to catch at least 90% of your original mistakes.
If you can include at least two diligent beta readers, you might get closer to 99%. (I had two for this post. I hope that was enough!)
In the end, there’s little sense in trying to achieve perfection, especially if your lack of perfection prevents publication. Do the best editing job you can, and then get back to writing your next masterpiece!
Can you add one more piece of editing advice to take us to 100?
Do you have any other favorite pairs or triplets of homophones you’d like to add?