Earlier this week I uploaded a post about how to edit poetry. Today I wanted to share a checklist of five different tips you can use when editing short stories:
- Read it out loud. The #1 tip for editing any style of writing is to read your work out loud. Why is that? When we read our writing out loud, it’s easier for us to spot grammatical errors, wordiness, repetitive phrasing, and much more.
- Check for consistency. This is especially helpful for character development. I like to read through a story to make sure if I brought up a small detail about a character, for example a character who doesn’t like fruit, that I take time to read through my entire story and make sure I keep this fact consistent throughout the story. I find when I write a story over a long period of time, I can forget small details and fail to deliver on consistency.
- “Trim the fat.” I also gave this tip in my post on how to edit poetry but for short stories the way you can accomplish this is different. Instead of trying to cut down words sentence by sentence, think of this more broadly. If you have clichés, if you have an extremely long introduction that doesn’t contribute to the story, or if you have filler words, try to cut down on these as much as possible. This will help your story have a more efficient impact on the reader that doesn’t linger on unnecessary details or wording.
- There should be multiple drafts. I can’t recommend the exact number of drafts you should write before you’re finished with your short story. What I can say for sure, is that the first draft should not be the same as the final draft. It is exciting to finish a piece of work, especially a short story which can take a much longer time than other styles of work. After you finish your first draft, take a break, the break could be a few days long even. Then come back and read your first draft again. After a break you’ll be able to read your work with more objectivity. Repeat this cycle until you’re satisfied with the end product. Each draft will most likely have less and less edits. If your second draft looks extremely different from your first draft, don’t be alarmed! It’s okay. Sometimes we need the freedom to write down out ideas but once we read it, we realize that it didn’t pan out as well as we originally hoped it would. That’s okay and that’s part of the fun of the editing process, we’ll find a way to work through it and produce an amazing end product.
- My last tip is the same as it was for editing poetry; share your work! Sharing your work with friends and asking for feedback will help you find ways to improve that you might not have found on your own. Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to sharing their work but sharing your story with at least one person that you trust to give constructive feedback will help you grow as a writer. If you are comfortable, I would strongly recommend sharing your work with more than one person since people’s opinions and critiques may vary. Sharing your work with at least a small group of people can help you get a general consensus on your stories strengths and weaknesses.
I find the editing process the most difficult for any type of writing that I post. I didn’t have a strong method until after I graduated college and I’m still learning on how to improve my method every day. This is to help any beginner or any writer that needs a refresher, come up with an editing method that works for them.
What does your editing process look like?