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4 Powerful Lessons From Editing Someone Else’s Book

November 22nd, 2017 by Margaret Feinberg
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I spent the last week editing a friend’s book. I poured over every chapter, paragraph, sentence, and word—not once, but twice.

I learned crucial lessons that will help your writing shine:

Beware of transportation that gets your reader where they need to be.

In the book I edited, I noted the writer sometimes took 300 to 500 words to get me where I needed to be. I learned about trains and planes and subways. As a reader, I’m not interested in your mode of transportation as much as the destination and transformation.

I recognized this in his book, then I saw it in mine. I’d just finished a chapter when I spent 1000-plus words describing a drive. The vistas. The sharp cliffs. The nausea. That’s now deleted, and the writing is much stronger.

Editing others’ writing will make you a better writer.

While working on the book, my writing sharpened, honed, and improved. I learned new writing techniques and constructions. I became alert to words the writer—and myself—overuse. I noted paragraphs that began with the same word stacked high, empty phrases that required deletion, and excess prose that slowed pacing.

If you want to improve your writing, swap your pieces with other writers. Edit each other often and thorough. In the Write Brilliant Academy, we ask members to exchange writing with each other through our private Facebook Page. People support and become iron sharpeners of each other. Editing others work will improve your writing skills.

The more readers, the better your manuscript.

Pouring through edits, I noted other readers’ concerns for parts of the book. Often we differed on the reasoning why a line or story didn’t work, but generally speaking, we were all stumbling over the same areas.

If you receive reader feedback that something in your writing isn’t working, don’t just dismiss the kind wisdom. Make a mental note and check if others struggle with the same part of the book. The reasoning may be different, but if two readers have difficulty over the same area, it’s time to revise.

Those last readings are when your writing will transition from good to great.

In a marathon, most people hit the wall. That moment they think they can’t take another step. This happens when you write a book, too. You’ve written and rewritten, edited and reworked. You reach a point where you can’t see your manuscript straight.

Weeks before the book was due, my friend was fried from working on the project. Yet the last 5 days proved the most crucial. That’s when we sharpened ideas, shifted order, and leveraged word magic (not the hocus pocus kind, but a powerful took we teach in the Write Brilliant Academy). Those last days matter so dig deep and edit well.

Remember: Editing others writing will make you a better writer. Exchange your work. Accept feedback. Make changes. Watch your writing shine.

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