3 Tips For Ruthless Self-Editing

self-editing tips
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For a writer, I sure do hate the process of coming up with creative concepts and pounding out words—but I love to edit. I get endless pleasure out of arranging and rearranging sentences, paragraphs, and pages. And yes, I’m aware that my fascination with revision is a bit weird. It’s more common for people to dread or even hate editing their own work, and no wonder. Revision can feel tricky, fraught, and even dangerously personal. So what’s my secret? It’s simple: I approach my own writing with ruthlessness.

Wait…what? How can ruthless editing be the key to finding peace with your writing? Hear me out: in my opinion, it’s way gentler to be ruthless with yourself before you let other people come into contact with your work. A bit of brutal honesty at your own hand can be much more productive than a dose of reality once you’ve already submitted a project. Plus, if you’re anything like me, you’re your own worst critic. So why not use that to your advantage?

Ruthless Editing Is Honest

When it comes to revising my own work, honesty is the best policy. This means taking a very real look at my own output. When I reread my own stuff, I make sure to mark areas that seem unclear, confused, or slow. Have I really done my best here? Are there areas where I lose my own attention? Can I really justify this word or that metaphor? Until I’m able to honestly say that something’s my best work, it’s not ready to go out into the world.

Ruthless Editing Is Bold

When you’re bold enough to own up to the shortcomings of your own work, chances are you’re also brave enough to change it. Ruthless revision doesn’t just mean pointing out the holes in your own output—it means fixing them. Since nobody’s seen it yet, this is your chance to shine. Harness your courage and try big solutions, even if they seem crazy. Yes, I’m talking about deleting passages, rearranging arguments, pushing yourself to explain something in a new way. They may be born of harsh truths, but my solutions tend to be anything but bashful (and that’s a great thing for my work).

Ruthless Editing Is Anything But Cruel

Lest you get the wrong impression here—by talking about ruthless revision, I’m not referring to negative self-talk. Bashing your own work is like a one-way ticket to a creative block, so watch your mouth when you critique your own work. That said, sometimes you have to be a bit harsh to be kind. Ultimately, a bold and ruthless edit has much to teach you about your creative process, your strengths and weaknesses, and your hidden abilities. With time and plenty of process, you’ll wonder how you ever managed before you got honest about editing your work.

Erin Blakemore FOLLOW >

Erin Blakemore is a library school drop-out, historian, freelance writer, and author of the award-winning The Heroine’s Bookshelf (Harper). She dishes about books, history, and channeling your inner heroine at www.erinblakemore.com