Editing Exercise: Length Play

Written by Emily Harstone | September 10, 2013

Slide29This week we are mixing things up a bit. Instead of a writing prompt we are doing an editing exercise. Few writers would claim to enjoy editing, but that does not make it any less important.

I personally despise editing, but I think that it is vitally important. When I write, editing is as important as writing, 50% of my effort and up to 75% of my time goes into editing a piece of fiction.

This is one of the exercises that can really help improve your editing and writing skills. First, choose a short story or a chapter that you wrote. It should be about five pages long.

Review what you wrote and then make the work at least two pages longer. You can do this by adding more description, or by adding depth to the characters, or by adding more dialogue.  Your options for making the piece longer are endless.

Then once you have added those extra two pages read what you wrote. Now don’t read any further in the exercise until you have done all these steps. If you have already done all the previously mentioned steps, please read on.

The next step is to take this approximately eight page story or chapter and make it only two pages long. You should cover all the important information that the story contained in two pages.

You could do this just by editing what you written, however I prefer to completely rewrite the story. I even hide the other version of the story while I am working on this step, so I am not tempted to glance at it.

Once you have finished with the short version of the story, you will have three very different versions of the same piece. Don’t compare them right away. Don’t look at them for a couple of weeks, then when you do you will be seeing them with fresh eyes.

You might like one version a lot better then the others but often each version will have something good about it. This is a great exercise because it strengthens your ability to edit and it also alters your perspective on work.

Happy editing!