Our eyes are deceptive little buggers. They often see things for what they should be, not what they are. I learned this the hard way, after spending hour after hour, day after day working on a novel. I’d already learned years before that you never edit as you write. My new approach was to write it, and then immediately go to the beginning and start the editing process. After working my way to the end, I was satisfied that I’d found all the mistakes. Then time passed, and I decided to read the story. I was blown away to find that there were still mistakes hidden among all those words. So as it turned out, my new approach was wrong too. I then had to figure out why. Why wasn’t I catching all my mistakes? What was I doing wrong?
For my next novel, I decided to try something different. I wrote it, making notes of anything I needed to change during edits, and then I walked away from it. I worked on other projects, piddled around the house, whatever I wanted to do. But I didn’t as much as think about that novel for months. Then, I was ready. I tackled that sucker, and was absolutely amazed at how much easier it was to edit after I’d distanced myself from it. The words were fresh, and therefore it was easy to spot mistakes. Enough time had passed that my eyes didn’t see what should’ve been there, there saw what was (or wasn’t) there. It was an amazing moment for me to realize that this is the way it should be done. This was the secret. Write it, walk away. Edit, walk away again. Edit one more time, just to be sure.
Distancing yourself from your work ensures that you will find more of your mistakes. To find even more, read your work aloud as you edit. It’s harder for your eyes to trick you if they have to relay messages to your mouth. Your mouth will rat them out if they’re lying.
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