5 Tips on Writing from an Editor

By Alexandra O’Connell, Your Resident Wordsmith

As you sit down with your book project, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to look up writing tips. Here are five core practices that will keep you motivated and on task this summer.

Tip #1: Writing and editing are two different animals

If there was only one tip I could give you about writing, this would be it. Don’t edit while you write!

Whether or not you started from an outline, you’ll discover that certain things work or don’t, or raise other questions, while writing. Answer them later. Editing while writing is a great way to short circuit your creative process and activate writer’s block.

Tip #2: Find the habits that best work for you

Every writer’s work habits and process look different. If you go online and google “writing tips,” or “habits to become a successful writer,” you’ll find a wealth of suggestions. Some of these contradict each other. That’s because no two people are alike.

The key is to find the habits that best work for you. If you are writing regularly, that’s success.

Tip #3: You will end up writing more (sometimes many more) words than you “need”

This is an irrefutable truth. No first draft ever equals the finished product. Inevitably, words get added, words get cut—sometimes a lot of words.

We can’t see what needs to be cut until we see what we have. Think of a traditional sculpture: you start with a block of wood, or stone, and whittle away what doesn’t need to be there. But you need the block to start.

Tip #4: You will write the end before you write the beginning

This may sound strange to people who haven’t done a lot of writing. The order of writing does not mirror the order of reading.

You’ll need to write the end of the book in order to know how to properly begin. Don’t let this frighten you. Know that what you think is the beginning will probably change.

Tip #5: Support is key

Writing is a lonely business. It can be easy to feel isolated, and you might be frustrated by the problems you encounter and what you think you don’t know. Find someone to talk to. This can be a mentor, writing teacher, editor, or coach; a writing workshop or mastermind group; a good friend or someone in your family you trust.

Look after yourself. You will benefit from having someone to provide feedback and perspective.

The bottom line

The more you make writing a habit, and the more you can separate writing and editing, the better a writer you will become. Accept that parts of the process feel frustrating and contradictory. And make sure you have someone in your corner who can hold your hand, buy you a beer, or sit back while you rant, wild-eyed, about your frustrations. This is how you succeed.

About Alexandra O’Connell

Alexandra O’Connell is Your Resident Wordsmith, a book editor and writing coach. She helps self-published authors create books that are engaging and editorially beautiful. Find her at www.alexoconnell.com.