Editing Challenge Day 28: Type it Up, but not the way you think

This is a new part of my 30-Day Editing Challenge. Start at the beginning or find other days here.

It’s almost done! All those changes you’ve diligently been making, whether as red-pen scribbles on your printout, or as bleary-eyed typings on your computer, will all come to fruition very soon. Remember that victory goes to the editor who does not rest too soon. More on this tomorrow.

Today you’re going to do a very simple task — but it’s not quite what you think. You are going to type up the changes you’ve made. But you are not simply going to key in the little cuts and pastes that you’ve made into the existing document. Oh, no. This is a trick I learned from a teacher of mine, and though it sounds a little obsessive, I found there’s nothing better for making your writing more special, more vivid, and more amazing.

So here’s what you must do: create a brand new, blank document. Name it what you like: this is going to be the real, authoritative version of your story. If you’ve been making edits all month on the hard copy, you will now start to type up the new version of the story by hand. If you have been making changes to the document on your computer, open up that document side by side with the blank one and start to type up the new version of the story by hand. No cutting and pasting is allowed; no easy duplication. You must physically re-create the story. You must type the whole darn thing for yourself as though it were new.

The reason? You’ll discover that if you’re having to create the story from scratch, it sets up one more barrier to prevent bad or mediocre work from slipping through. That passage that was a little redundant but you’d let slide anyway? Now you will not let it make its way into the new document. Every sentence must now pass one more test of acceptability and general awesomeness.

It sounds arduous. But each time I’ve drawn a big sigh and been willing to do this, it has immensely improved my story. If it is that reliable an editing technique, then why not try it?

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