Performing Surgery on Yourself

Editing is like being a surgeon performing surgery. Cut out what you don’t need, tighten this, rearrange that, voila! The issue comes when you edit your own work… it’s like performing surgery on yourself. Mmm… yeah, maybe that’s why so many authors drink so much?
Editing is a difficult process, even writers who don’t mind editing their own stuff should still have someone else look over it. Odds are, you’ve overlooked something. It’s much harder to edit your own work because you know exactly what you meant. If you forgot a word your brain will just pop in the word and you’ll never notice a difference. Thanks brain.. what a pal!
Now, I know I’ve given some tips on editing before and maybe I am beating a dead horse but I think it is vital that an author be able to effectively edit their own work, and sometimes that means ripping out that sentence that is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written. Sometimes it means taking out the brother character even though he has some great lines. Sometimes it’s totally starting over because what you’ve written just doesn’t work.
Writing and editing exist side by side, parallel lines that should NOT intersect. If you try to edit while you write you’re just going to end up like the snake eating its own body. You will edit away as soon as you write and leave yourself with nothing. It’s incredibly frustrating to try. So here are a few tips for editing yourself.
  1. Read from the end to the beginning. Out loud.
  2. Put it away for at least 24 hours before looking at it.
  3. If in doubt, cross it out.
  4. Don’t second guess the first time you edit. Mark everything.
  5. Sometimes something is great… just not in that particular piece. Keep a file for ‘scraps’ to use later.


  1. Laura Said:

    *guilty face* I am so bad about editing while I write. If I get stuck on a paragraph, I’ll go back and edit what I just wrote five minutes ago. Bad me :/ I am one of those people who likes editing my own work, but I completely agree with getting someone else to do it as well. You need a fresh eye for things… 🙂

    “If in doubt, cross it out” has become my (reluctant) motto.

  2. randallweiss Said:

    Good advice. May I also suggest allowing someone else to edit your work? Sometimes, no matter how much we try to distance ourselves from the work, we miss things.

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