Updated: Nov 18, 2022
In recent weeks, I attended an excellent workshop on self-editing for writers presented by a senior editor with a wealth of experience in the field. I chatted to the participants on either side of me and mentioned, “I'm a writer and also an editor,” and handed over my business card. The woman to my left asked, “If you’re an editor, why are you here?” I could see where she was coming from. As I was an editor, didn’t I already know all about book editing? I answered, “Yes, I’m an editor but that doesn’t mean I know everything there is to know or I can't keep on learning from other editing professionals.” That was all I had time to say as the session commenced.
Later, I reflected on how much value I had gained from attending the workshop. I love being in student mode and learning something new, or something that bolts on to what I already know, or something I know but have half-forgotten.
Here are five of my take-aways from this workshop:
Study acting to be a better writer of emotional scenes. When writing an emotional scene, find a movie reference where the character is showing their grief, anger, shock, joy, disgust. The actor does not say, “I’m angry,” or “I feel sad,” instead they act out their emotions. As writers, we have to translate that visual/oral scene in a movie into a written scene without using labelling words such as ‘sad,’ ‘angry’ ‘envious,’ ‘frustrated.’ This was a fresh approach to the 'Show, Don't Tell' advice mantra.
Choose one aspect of a character’s physical appearance when you describe them for the first time (as opposed to describing them down to the colour of their shoelaces). This point linked to something I already knew, which is not to define a main character in totality when he/she is first brought into the story; rather, let the character be revealed bit by bit as they go through the dramatic action.
To decide which point of view (POV) is the best one to tell your story, write two or three pages of the POVs you are considering. Read them aloud. In which version does your writing feel ‘right and natural'? Ideally, the storytelling is prominent while the writing does not jump out at you.
Different ways of starting a story which are not the chronological approach of “Once upon a time, there was .…” Consider how you will hook the reader into the narrative right away such as dropping them into a scene or starting with the first major event.
The value for a writer to follow a period of high productivity with a rest period to be followed by another period of high productivity. Our creativity is fuelled by other experiences such as walking the dog, gardening, swimming, attending a sporting or cultural event, going to the beach, driving to the mountains, going to the movies or simply doing nothing.
Not even the most expert professional knows everything about their area of expertise. Regardless of their high academic qualifications, or their twenty-five years’ experience, or the nine bestsellers they’ve written, they (and we) need to remain humble and keep ourselves informed and challenged and renewed. If we believe we are standing on top of the mountain and there is nothing else we need to know, we may fall victim to our inflated self-opinion, also known as hubris. Let's keep on our toes and learn from each other's expertise and experiences.
Becoming knowledgeable and skilled in self-editing is valuable for every writer for a number of reasons. Arguably, the most important one is how it makes us better writers as we use more of the productive storytelling techniques and less of the unproductive ones. Over time, we can eliminate our bad habits and imbed the new ones.
When you are ready to hand your self-edited manuscript over to a professional editor, Lloyd Moss Publishing would love to hear from you. More information on our editing services is HERE
This article is part of a series on self-editing for writers. If you would like more knowledge and techniques on editing your manuscripts, please subscribe via the box below.
Doing the write thing (and loving it!)
p.s. Please note Lloyd Moss Publishing is fully booked with current projects until the end of 2022. We are commencing new projects as and from 3rd January 2023. Please do not hesitate to get in touch in November or December about your editing or self-publishing needs. We look forward to speaking with you soon.