Editing Tips

Tightening Up
You will probably find that the opening of your first draft has been more of a warming up exercise, a way of breaking yourself in gently to the often daunting task of filling that first blank page. Strangely, these initial efforts can persist through any number of drafts, and it’s only when you eliminate them and see that nothing’s been lost that you realise what has happened.

Similarly, the ending of the first draft – often persisting through version after version – merely reflects the fact that you are unwilling to let go of something to which you have become deeply attached. Sometimes you just have to be ruthless with yourself.

Sentences and Pace
Are your sentences long and complex, or short and pithy? If the length varies throughout the piece, are they randomly varied or does there seem to be some sort of correlation between sentence length and content? In general, there’s a tendency for long sentences to slow the action down, while short sentences speed it up. Many writers do this unconsciously, but knowing about it puts you in charge. You should aim for an equal balance of long and short sentences, but you can alter the balance to suit the pace of your work.

Passive and Active Voice
Compare ‘Arthur sharpened the axe’ and ‘The axe was sharpened by Arthur’. The first sentence is active – the subject of the sentence is doing the action and therefore more immediate and engaging. The second sentence is passive – the subject of the sentence is having something done to it and therefore more wordy and potentially more abstract. Always try to use active verbs – make the verb muscle the sentence. How else can you say ‘is’ and ‘was’?

Abstractions and vagueness
Although an image may be perfectly clear to you, to the reader, it may be abstract. ‘She washed the shrunken wrinkled green sheets, layered them into a bowl and decorated them with slices of iced cool eyes and pebble sized tomatoes.’ (cf. ‘She made a salad.’) Tell it as it is.

Article found http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/getwriting/module3p.