On Editing

A while back, I posted a call to all writers who wanted to share their editing tips, and Drew Conry-Murray stepped up to bat.  If you don’t already follow Drew’s blog, you’re missing a real treat.  So without further ado, here’s Drew:


Thanks to Rachel for offering her blog page to other writers. I’m looking forward to learning some useful editing tips from my fellow scribes. Here’s a few that work for me.

1. Walk Away
When I write, I often find a gap between what I meant to say, and what I actually wrote down. It’s as if there’s a narrator in my head who provides context or assumptions that don’t always make it onto the page.

You can’t stand over a reader’s shoulder and provide that internal narrative as they read, so the best way I’ve found to close this gap is to walk away from a piece for a time.

Then, when you come back to it with a cold eye, it’s easier to see the places where the words don’t match your intentions.

For short blogs, I find even a few minutes away from the screen helpful. For longer pieces and fiction, I put more distance between edits—days or even weeks if possible.

2. Read Aloud
When I read to my kids at night, I know I’m in the hands of a good writer when the words flow smoothly and gracefully out of my mouth, even if it’s the first time I’ve read the book.

I decided to try reading my own work aloud (just to myself). It was a useful exercise because I found a lot of rough patches and clunky language. Reading aloud also forces you to slow down and pay closer attention compared to silent reading. The slower, more attentive pace makes it easier to find passages that need more work.

3. Paper Edit
I like to do a paper edit for short stories and novels. Once I have a rough draft I’m satisfied with, I’ll print a copy of the work, and then sit somewhere comfortable with a pen and go at it.

Something happens when words on a screen become words on paper. There’s a freshness and clarity with paper—and perhaps an element of seriousness—that pixels lack. Mistakes that I missed dozens of times on the screen leap forward in print.

Biggest Repeated Mistake
I think my biggest mistake was believing that the main character had to be noble and upright, as if I were writing a book of moral instruction. Messy, complicated people are more interesting.

Weakest Point of Editing
I think my weakest point of editing is that I’ll speed through sections of the work because I’ve seen it so many times. Instead of reading carefully, I just skim.

Work in Progress
I’m currently querying agents for a novel called Atlantis Rising. Set in 1887, it’s a paranormal thriller about the search for the lost kingdom of Atlantis. I also posted a short story, Crypto, on the free story site Wattpad [https://www.wattpad.com/story/37422090-crypto]. My novel Wasteland Blues [http://www.amazon.com/Wasteland-Blues-Scott-Christian-Carr/dp/1935738593/], a mad quest through a post-apocalyptic world, is available in print or as an ebook.

My blog is http://andrewconry-murray.com/ and you can follow me on Twitter at @DrewConryMurray

Thanks for the opportunity to contribute to your blog, Rachel!


Thank you, Drew, for such awesome tips!  Now, who’s up next?  If you’re game, please contact me at: