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Edit Your Work by Reading It Backwards

Updated on October 31, 2015
RGraf profile image

Rebecca Graf is a seasoned writer with nearly a decade of experience and degrees in accounting, history, and creative writing.

Editing your work is very important. It’s very sad that so many authors don’t realize this. This is one of the most critical stages of getting your work published. You can edit many ways. Have you considered reading your book backwards?

Importance of Self-Edit

Editing your work before sending it to an editor is very important. I’ve actually been asked why that should be done. Well, because your work is far from perfect and still needs attention from your creative mind. As you go over your first draft, only you will be able to see areas that need the attention from you, the creator.

This is your chance to reword sentences and smooth out scenes to flow better. It’s your opportunity to expand scenes or change things that as the story progressed didn’t work as well as you had planned. Ideas will hit you that didn’t occur the first time through writing the story. You might discover a subplot you didn’t have in your mind until doing the self-edits. The story gets much more depth during the self-edit phase.

When you write a story, you don't just write it and then hand it off. You should be going over your draft at least once if not three or four times before an editor sees it. You'll find where you forgot things you wanted to put in or had characters in the wrong places. It's your time to have fun and play with your story.

Backwards Gets Your Attention

Okay, let me get this part straight. I’m not talking about literal backwards reading. If your last sentence is “He read until the candle burned itself out” then you don’t edit it by reading “out itself burned candle the until read He”. That’s ridiculous. I mean take the last paragraph and read it first as though it was the first words of your story.

Why? Because it gets your attention and slows you down. If you start at the beginning of your story, your mind is already following along with the plot and making unconscious assumptions. You’ll miss problem areas because your mind is seeing things that really aren’t there but should be.

Going to the end of your story first stops your brain from misleading you. You’ll see the paragraph you read as something standing alone which enables you to catch issues with sentence structure and words. Granted, you can’t content edit this way, but you can line edit quite well and even proofread rather effectively by reading it backwards.

Plus you don't read it as fast as you normally do. You aren't reading in the normal direction so you read more deliberately. You concentrate on how it sounds and flows.

Make Corrections

Make corrections as you go. Either read your work digitally or in print. Mark up the manuscript and don’t hesitate to experiment with sentence structures. If you are iffy about anything, put your corrections in parentheses so you can go back and review them later or even have your editor help you choose one. Highlight the area if that helps you more or add a comment.

When I edit digitally, I highlight the paragraphs I’ve edited so I don’t go over them again until I do another full round of edits. That saves me time and keeps me on track. Find what works for you and go with it.

As you go backwards, you are also finding consistency issues. I know I've found where I had people in the wrong places. They stand out when you aren't going the normal way through your story. And that's what you want. You want to find the problems easily and get them fixed.

You might this concept of reading your work backwards odd and a little out there, but you’ll be surprised how many things you can catch even after you have edited it several other times. Start off editing from page one. In the second, third, or fourth round of edits, go backwards and see what things you find. So many will pop out that you'll be shocked you missed so much.

Remember that by the time you are getting to the end of your manuscript, you are tired of reading it. Start at the end, and it will be like starting at the beginning - fresh and exposing.


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    • Sakshi Davessar profile image

      Sakshi Davessar 2 years ago from Punjab, India

      most welcome :)

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 2 years ago from Wisconsin

      We are too close to it to catch it all.

      Glad you stopped by.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 2 years ago from Wisconsin

      Thank you for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 2 years ago from Georgia

      That's a very good point. I sometimes think I have done a great job of editing and then after I publish something, a friend finds an error. My brain just skipped over it because I started the editing process from the beginning!

    • Sakshi Davessar profile image

      Sakshi Davessar 2 years ago from Punjab, India

      Amazing.... I agree with this, very thoughtful of you. I liked the part that you have described about when we read from the start we already know the flow and the plot so we hardly find out any mistakes.

      You wrote it so well !