Author author author, this is editor editor editor.

In a recent maritime radio course, I learned about how radio waves travel from source to receiver. Before then I’d thought of radio waves just “existing in the air” but they do need to transmit from one point to another. Hills, cliffs, large trees, etc can impede that flow. (Don’t @ me with your intermediate radio repeater station or even relay. It’s a METAPHOR.)

Since I’m always the one in a radio course talking about poetry and literature, I brought up what Carol Shields believed about writing. She imagined telling her story directly into her sister’s ear.

Writing is the message (apologies, McLuhan) and self-editing is the way to send that message as clearly as possible, with nothing in the way and no filler.

Things that can block that delivery:

  • Too long
  • Too many ideas or too “clever”
  • Not enough variety: stories, dialogue, examples, lists…
  • Not written with target reader in mind
  • A report from the Department of Redundancy Department
  • Adverbs, cliches, clunky transitions, repetition, run-on sentences, unbelievable characters, and belaboured metaphors (hurts so good)

In the writing program I teach, we’re talking about self-editing. A focused round of big picture (macro) editing and another round of micro editing to fine-tune the prose and idea can help you reach your target reader. Self-editing helps you identify a direct line-of-sight.

Adopting an editing mindset allows you to pour out a first draft without fear or procrastination. You can write it directly to yourself. Then, self-edit so you can send that message to the reader.

If you want to learn more about how to self-edit, I highly recommend The Artful Edit by Susan Bell. It’s everything an editor can teach you, but a fraction of the cost. Some of my clients are following the methods in that book as they revise, and the results are phenomenal.

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