Revising Like an Editor

by Michael Mercurio

Revision… You can tell yourself that it’s a chance to “re-envision” your work, or that it’s the easy part of writing, because the hard part is getting the words down on paper in the first place. But how many writers do you know who sweep the clutter off their desks and bellow, “HUZZAH! TIME TO REVISE!” before taking some Wite-Out and an X-Acto knife (or their digital equivalents) to their precious manuscript?  Probably not many.

The process of revision is difficult for most writers for at least three reasons:

  • It’s difficult to look at your beautiful, vulnerable manuscript and not want to see it as perfect
  • Most of us aren’t trained to read as editors, which is different from reading as a writer or just reading for pleasure
  • Even if you have an editor’s perspective and can see where your manuscript isn’t perfect, it’s still hard to know where to start making changes (and easy to feel overwhelmed!)

Taken together, these three reasons are indeed daunting, but what if we approach them as discrete elements? My systemic approach, informed by nearly 20 years as a ghostwriter and editor, is to focus first on the small changes that bring big results and help to free the story, scene, or poem from common linguistic traps. Once you’re able to identify common changes that will benefit your work we’ll take a closer look specifically at the 500-word piece you brought and map out some possibilities for taking it to the next level.

By the end of my Revising Like an Editor workshop (coming up on June 19), you’ll know all of my revision secrets, and you’ll have a toolbox of techniques to deploy when you hit the end of one draft and want to start the next, as well as confidence in your own editorial eye.

Michael Mercurio has worked as a ghostwriter and editor for multiple academic deans and corporate C-suite executives over a long career as an executive assistant; when he’s not drafting (and revising) reports, speeches, tenure and promotion memos, and accreditation self-studies, he writes (and revises) poetry and poetry criticism and serves as Director of Community Outreach for the Faraday Publishing Company.

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