Too many time I’ve heard writers say, “I can’t edit my own writing.”
Well, if you can’t edit your work, who can? No one knows your characters or what ideas you want to convey in your article better than you do. A friend, or better yet a good word processing program will catch many grammatical and spelling errors, but when it comes to content, each writer must learn to edit their own writing.
A case in point: When Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. was considering the manuscript my daughterand I submitted for publication, the Editor sent me this cryptic email. ” . . . before we offer you a contract, we’d like you to cut 150 pages.”
YIKES!, I thought. One hundred and fifty pages is a not a word here or a word there. I asked the editor for suggestions and received this reply, “There is a lot of repetition.” Again a very vague response, but since I did not want to be known as a problem author, and I very much wanted to be published, I did not ask any more questions, but instead got busy.
Being methodical, I looked at the problem logically. My manuscript was 500 pages long, and the editor wanted 350 pages, thus about 30% of my words/pages must go. I made a chart with four columns. The first column was the title of each chapter, next column was how many words/pages in each chapter, the third column was my goal for that chapter, and the 4th column was the number of pages after my editing.
Some chapters were already tight, I could cut few words, but other chapters received a critical eye and a machete. If you think cutting 150 pages sounds like a terrible assignment, guess what? I had less than a month to accomplish this. But I did it, and Gallaudet Published Amy SIgns, A Mother Her Deaf Daughter and Their Stories. (September 2012)
Could someone else done this for me? Not a chance. A staff editor at Gallaudet rewrote one of my chapters, changing that chapter from my one-act play into prose. Her voice was not at all like my writing voice. A writer MUST edit their own writing or you will lose your authenticity.