This post is for all of my poets out there who are new to editing, struggle with editing, or just need a refresher. This guide is giving tips on how to edit poetry and then later this week I will be posting a guide on how to edit short stories.
Editing has always been my biggest struggle with writing. I either get so excited after I finish a draft that I want my work out there immediately or I don’t even know where to begin with editing and I grow frustrated. After taking a few classes and talking to other writers I’ve developed a method that I am going to share with all of you.
Step 1: Congratulations, you’ve finished your draft! You have one of two options here. Honestly I do both, depending on what I’ve written and if it has a deadline. You can either continue into the editing process or take a break. Taking a day long break, an hour long break, etc. can help you clear your mind and come back with a more objective view to continue editing your new poem.
Step 2: Once you’re ready to move onto the editing process, simple read through your poem a couple of times. Don’t edit anything. Just get a feel for what you’ve written and see if anything stands out.
Step 3: “Trim the fat.” Ask yourself this, can a convey an even stronger message if I take out some of the “fluff” wording that may not need to be there? Sometimes this can feel very personal to a writer because we spend so long on our writing that it seems strange to turn around and try to trim it down, but you’d be surprise at how much more powerful your message can be once you cut out some words or even lines.
Step 4: Are you using one word too much? Do you have a word that doesn’t quite fit? Try using a thesaurus to look for synonyms. You don’t want to necessarily change the meaning of the word you’re using but it needs a slight tweak, right? Then try your best to find a synonym! This is always a good habit to get into because a lot of us are guilty of having what I call “comfort words.” Words we routinely use in multiple pieces. The more variety the better!
Step 5: I like to do one or two times, it’s a scan solely for grammar. I’m far from perfect when it comes to grammar so I need to take extra time to review it. The two things I’m most guilty of are misusing commas and incomplete sentences. If you were going to read this poem out loud where would you take pauses? This is a trick that might help you with punctuation.
Step 6: Visual aesthetic. Now your poem sounds grammatically correct but does it visually appear how you want it to? If you want to shape it a certain way or add in visual art, now is the time to do so. Just remember to ask yourself, does the visual aesthetic contribute to the message of the poem? Making a bold aesthetic choice that aligns with the poem’s message can make for an even better experience for the reader.
Step 7: If you haven’t already taken a break, you should do so now. After these edits sometimes I take a break and sit back down to re-read it. From here I’ll either go through the fully editing process again or just make final touches.
Step 8: Share your work! Where people are comfortable sharing their work varies for everyone but I’m a firm believer that you should share your work somewhere. Whether it’s on a blog, on social media, with your friends or family, in a class. It doesn’t matter! The constructive feedback and affirmation you get from others will help you grow so much as a writer.
Feel free to comment on this post with additional steps that you take for your editing process!
One thought on “The Beginner’s Guide to Mindful Editing”
Very true – these tips work just as well for short fiction as poetry! 😀 Re-reading it aloud, sharing it with friends & family and stripping it down leaner have all helped me improve my writing and avoid unnecessary padding.