Writing is a solitary business. Writing is also a business of editing and revising until a piece is as good as it can be. Sometimes those two things conflict.
When we look at our own writing, it’s easy to see what we thought we wrote instead of what’s actually on the page. You can’t revise or edit effectively unless you see what’s actually there. You must see your work with fresh eyes every time you sit down to edit or revise. Here’s how to do that.
Use Someone Else’s Eyes
The easiest way to get fresh eyes on your work is to use someone else’s eyes. There are several ways that won’t cost you a penny.
Use online grammar checkers like Grammarly and Hemingway. They’ll catch a lot of things that your eyes might miss. Be careful, though. You must understand grammar and usage so you can evaluate either program’s recommendations.
Friends can see your work with fresh eyes. But not any friend will do. You need a friend who knows what good writing is and can explain better ways to phrase your ideas. That’s not enough. You must be willing to listen to your friend or it won’t matter how good his or her advice is.
Find an intelligent 15-year-old. Have him or her read your work and tell you what it says. Teenagers are intelligent enough to understand anything you’ve got to say and they’re fearless about telling you what they think.
You can hire help. Editors and writing coaches bring professional expertise along with their eyes. If you hire help, make sure that the editor or coach understands your goals and your audience.
Things You Can Do
Using someone else’s eyes is a great choice, but there are other things you can do to improve your writing. Here are two.
Put your writing away for a while. “Awhile” can be a few minutes, a few hours, or a few weeks. The longer you go without seeing your work, the more likely you’ll come to it with fresh eyes.
Read your writing aloud. This is the writing tip my clients love most. When you read your work aloud, your tongue will trip over things your eyes thought were just fine.
We tend to see what we think we wrote.
Get feedback from knowledgeable friends.
Consider getting feedback from an intelligent 15-year-old.
Put your writing away for a while.
Hire an editor or a coach.