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Editing is (also) a process…

Last weekly issue, I wrote about my writing process.

Blurt mode is one way to describe it.

Stream-of-consciousness is another.

I have to fight with every fiber of my being from editing as I go because my mind is racing at 90 mph trying to get thoughts out before I second-guess myself and say “there’s a better way to phrase this”.

I’m getting better at it, and I’m taking a course to streamline and improve my editing.

This issue is my editing process for your reference (although I will confess that these issues are lightly edited).

Again, this series is about my system. I have a 9-5 and a house full of pets and children. If I can do it, so can you.

The Three-Phase Process

I love cooking, and I’ve mentioned this analogy in posts, previous issues, and articles that I’ve written on Medium.

You have to let meat rest after you’ve cooked it.

The same applies to your writing if you intend for others to consume it to its maximum flavor.

It has to at least be left alone for an equal amount of time that you put into writing it (if not longer).

My recommendation is to write one day and edit the next if you’re in a hurry.

Better yet, write out everything you can and stash it in drafts as you write others as well to accumulate a backlog of several day’s worth.

This way, you have an endless number of ideas waiting to be picked up and refined without the pressure to publish or post all the time.

Here are the three phasese:

  1. Reduce

  2. Revise

  3. Revive

Let’s jump into it!

The Reduction Process

If you’ve ever cooked with wine (adding it to the dish, not drinking as you go), then you know this is how you get the flavor without the hangover.

You want your reader to have the same experience with your writing.

On first glance, everything looks nice and may flow decently.

But it could be better.

There’s a saying that all great writers like to share in some variant:

  • Cut down on what you’ve written.

  • Eliminate the fluff by at least a third…

  • Then eliminate another third from that.

I like to call this a concentration process that intensifies the impact of your writing.

You will discover that there are points that you’ve repeated or re-worded throughout the writing phase that doesn’t need to be mentioned repeatedly or with as many words (like this one).

If it can be said in simpler and more direct terms, then do so.

I’d say three passes at max, though.

Too much of a good thing strips away the fat…then the meat…until you’re left with the bones.

You don’t want that.

Just trim the fat or else all the juice will escape.

It’s up to you how you want to do this, but I like to do two passes over my work.

Once it’s done, it’s time to move to the next phase.

The Revision Process

This phase is where you find better ways to say what remains.

In other words, you get to correct the seasoning level in this phase (like in your soup or sauce after the wine reduction).

The flavor is there, but some aspects need highlighting.

It’s not necessary to reduce what you’ve written. You want to smooth over the remaining text so that it flows better and leads your reader through the article with a slippery slope approach.

I won’t go into detail about writing techniques that can be used as there are many, but I will say that your work should have one focus with supporting statements that reinforce the message.

This phase is supposed to improve on it by improving the flavor profile of the writing.

The only suggestion I’d say in this phase is that reading a variety of subjects can help.

Once you’ve completed this part, you’re ready to move to the last phase.

The Revival Process

I’d say this one is optional as you may or may not combine this one with the previous phase. Sometimes revising also results in adding your style and voice into the text, but putting it in its own category also makes sense.

The difference between this and the previous step is for people (like me) who may have reduced a little too much or revised a little too much. It’s the insurance that our writing hasn’t become bland due to our insecurities about judgment by the reader.

There are a thousand ways to say the same thing, and this step is to make sure the way you deliver the message is truly unique to you.

If you have an anecdote from your own experience that adds to your writing, this is the place to add it.

This part of the process can be the longest or the shortest depending on how you feel (hell, I’d venture to say skip this part or save it for another day).

This is like adding a little cream to the soup or sauce to give it more body when all’s said and done (with a bit of flavor adjustment).

Then it’s ready to serve.

That’s pretty much it…that’s my editing process.

It’s also the hardest part for me. I’m weaning myself off the “write and publish in one session” mentality that all beginner writers tend to have.

You want to be visible as soon as possible to build a following blah, blah, blah…

It’s part of the journey, but at some point we all have to move beyond the basic dishes and venture into the the more challenging ones.

You can’t get a Michelin star by serving what everyone else is serving!

Thanks for reading!