Adele Annesi

Adele Annesi is an award-winning editor and writer for global Web content and print publications. She is an editor with the IT analysis firm Gartner, Inc., and has worked as a development editor for Scholastic Publishing. She is also a fiction and nonfiction book editor. As a press correspondent and columnist, Adele has written for newspapers, magazines, blogs and literary journals, including Hotmetalpress, and Trillium. She won Poetic Voices of America’s editor’s choice award, and presented the innovative "Art of Editing in Writing" workshop for the Ridgefield Writes 300th Anniversary program. A nominated member of Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in American Women, Adele is at work on a novel and several short stories. Visit my blogs, Word for Words, and Writing Linx or, see me on Facebook or LinkedIn

The Art of Editing in Writing

Editing, like other disciplines, is as much art as science, and viewing it that way can make it easier and more enjoyable. That’s the underlying principal of a workshop I do called “The Art of Editing in Writing.” It focuses on the six “Rs” of editing—research, reading, revising, rewriting, reconstructing, and rereading. I mentioned a couple of these tools last month, but to get a handle on how they work and when to use them, it’s best to understand all of them.

Research: Research used to mean hours in the library or traveling—now we use the Internet. But without the right approach, research can still take hours, sometimes with more information than necessary and from dubious sources. To corroborate the facts, especially those that underpin your work, use Internet sites with .edu, .gov, .mil, .net or .org in their URLs. Some sites, like LinkedIn, have vetted subject matter experts who can confirm or flesh out the facts. But surfing the Net is only one form of research. Sometimes there’s no substitute for visiting the place you’re writing about (or somewhere like it) and talking with people who are like your characters or can substantiate facts for a nonfiction piece. Doing the right kind of research in the right context can make editing easier and enhance your readers’ experience. But beware of too much fact—write from your experience, not with it.

Read: Anyone who can write can read. But are you reading your work most effectively to develop your ear to hear what needs changing? To improve the process and reduce the amount of editing you or someone else will do, read your work by the “rule of three” used for poetry. Read aloud to yourself and to others (or record your work), read in different environments, and read with different pacing. As you read, consider how the words sound and whether there’s continuity. Consider, too, their impact on your audience. Read as if you’re someone else, someone who didn’t write piece, and listen for what’s there and what’s missing. Eventually, you’ll begin hearing how the words would sound if you revised them.

Revise: Before making changes that will make your work a new iteration, keep a copy of what you have. Now, before revising, let’s talk about the process—it can be as simple as individual word changes, or a line edit, or something more extensive. Regardless of how much revision the work needs, before you revise consider

the word revision. In Writing Down the Bones, Natalie Goldberg says, “See revision as ‘envisioning again.’” Have you said what you mean to say, and with as much vitality as possible? Look for lack of clarity, lack of passion, and incongruities in the writing, and when you revise, remember to address all five senses.

Rewrite: Rewriting is different from revising—it’s not just a line edit; it’s taking what you have and recreating it. Rewriting is most often needed when the flow of a piece is off, when your voice or a character’s voice has changed or matured (as often happens when time elapses between the start of a piece and when you go back to it), or when the point of view has changed. As with revising, it’s helpful to keep a copy of the prior version in case you want to use snippets of it. First paragraphs and first chapters of novels, when they’re not discarded outright, are good candidates for a rewrite.

Restructure: I remember the first time I heard the word restructuring and thought it wasn’t a big deal. But think of what it would mean if you restructured your house. It literally means taking whole sections and moving them around for a better layout. Restructuring becomes necessary when something major is amiss, like the plot isn’t working or a character needs to be eliminated because fewer would suffice. Restructuring is used also when pacing is off in an overarching way, as in a novel.

Reread: The most important element of rereading is the passing of time—and this is essential. When you’re your own editor, it’s hard enough to see your mistakes. It’s nearly impossible to catch major problems without putting the work aside for at least a week, preferably longer, and working on something else. The passing of time and the distraction of working on other writing works wonders. Also, try editing someone else’s work before coming back to yours. It will be easier to see what needs to be changed in your writing when you’re already in edit mode.

Because editing is an art, it requires discipline, and the end result helps mitigate what sometimes seems like misery. To hone your work, use the six “Rs”—research, reading, revising, rewriting, reconstructing, and rereading—from your editing toolkit. The more you practice using these tools, the more they’ll become second nature.