I’ve heard it said, “Write without fear, edit without mercy.” Many people stop before they get started because they don’t know where to start. They stare at a blank screen wondering what to write. Or, they fear judgement, that it won’t be good enough. In this post I’m going to walk you through how to get it out and then make it sound good with my 5-step writing and editing process.
New around here?
Step One: Brain Dump
The first step in writing is to just get it out. Figure out what works for you. Maybe it’s setting a timer. Maybe it’s having certain music playing. Maybe it’s making a cup of tea, or lighting a candle.
Create a space where you can be creative.
Think about how you can best serve those that are meant to read your message.
Then just start writing.
Get out as much as you can as fast as you can.
Set a timer if you need to.
And don’t forget, once you’re done brain dumping, you need to give yourself SPACE. Take at least a day, if not more, before looking at the piece again.
Step Two: Rewrite
Once you’ve had enough space, take a look at the copy again.
...Where does it get slow or boring?
...Are some of the sentences too long?
...Do some words or sentences sound weird?
Just like after the initial brain dump, once you do your rewrite you need to give yourself SPACE (again). Take at least a day, if not more, before revisiting your copy.
Step Three: Rewrite (Again)
Remember that ‘edit without mercy’ part? Yup. Go through it again sentence by sentence.
...Does this sentence need to be here?
...Does this sentence contribute to the overall purpose of the piece?
...Does it grab you by the eyeballs and make you want to read more?
Really, truly, be relentless when you edit. Shorten the sentences as much as you can. Use contractions (I’m, weren’t, you’ll, etc.). Then, take out everything else you can, while still getting your point across.
Check to see how many (and which) emotional words you’ve used. Do your words paint a picture in the reader’s mind?
If your readers are completely unfamiliar with the topic at hand, will they be able to see it in their minds and understand it, just from what you’ve written?
How will your readers feel as they read your piece? What do you want them to feel?
Memories are best linked with emotions! In fact, this is why people with Alzheimer’s remember music for so long after forgetting most other things. There’s a feeling attached to it.
You want to be very aware of what emotions someone will feel reading your writing.
Step Four: Read It Out Loud
If at all possible, read your writing out loud to someone else.
If there’s absolutely no one to listen (which I’ll find hard to believe if you can’t find one person to listen to you for a few minutes), then you can read it out loud alone.
Moreover, you can always record yourself and listen back. I’ll admit, I find this option immensely annoying since I don’t enjoy listening to myself. It’s not always comfortable to hear your own voice, but if you can handle it, it will be very informative.
Also, Bonus Points if you read it to a 5th or 6th grader and he or she understands everything you’re talking about!
Make sure that you get feedback from the listener for your final rewrite!
Step Five: Rewrite, Take Three
When I said ‘edit without mercy’, I meant it! Now that you’ve written and rewritten multiple times, and you’ve read it out loud to hear how it sounds spoken, it’s time for one last rewrite.
Revise any problem spots that came up while you read aloud.
Take out any parts where your listener became bored or distracted.
Remember, we only have a 6-second attention span, so sentences need to be short and snappy and hold your reader’s attention all the way.
Hooray! You’re done! Do something to celebrate!