Take a break from your work.
After finishing your first draft, it’s tempting to ride the wave of momentum right into editing, but you’ve got to take a break from your writing. Put it away and work on something else for an hour, a day, three days… however long you can spare depending on your deadline. You need some space from your first draft so you can edit it later with a clear mind and fresh eyes.
Read your work in a different format.
If you wrote your first draft in Word, try saving it as a PDF. If you wrote in Google Docs, move your work into a basic text editor on your computer. Or better yet, print your first draft out and read it on paper. Seeing your work in a different format will help your brain process the words in a new way and makes it easier to catch anything that needs changing.
Read your writing out loud.
Try reading your writing out loud, even if you feel really awkward about it at first. Hearing your writing out loud reveals any awkward or clunky sentences, and you’ll be able to tell if the writing sounds like you. Overall, you’ll get a better sense of the flow and rhythm you’re creating.
Take your time.
Remember, writing the first draft is only half the battle - which means you may spend just as much time editing your work as you did writing it, and that’s totally okay. You need to spend quality time going over your work to refine writing style, sentence structure, grammar, and more.
Edit in phases.
Since you’re taking your time to edit, why not try breaking up your editing into different phases? You can start with a big picture edit in one phase, and then catch nitty-gritty details in a second phase. For example, look for sentence structure and style issues first. After that, look closer for grammar and spelling mistakes. Editing in phases removes the pressure of trying to perfect everything at once.
Take advantage of online editing tools.
Thanks to the wonderful World Wide Web, there are plenty of free online editing tools at your disposal. While they can’t take the place of manual editing by a real person, using a few of these different tools is a great addition to your editing routine.
Have someone else edit and proofread.
In an ideal world, we could just fire off our first draft to a professional editor and call it a day. But if you don’t have access to your own editor, can you send your writing to a writing partner or a friend? They can catch things you missed because they’re looking at it for the very first time.
As a writer, it’s easy to get caught up in the initial process of writing and forget about everything that comes after the first draft. Editing can feel like a separate art form, but you can use these strategies to improve your editing skills and make all of your work stronger.