Out-of-the-mainstream editing tricks you can try

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This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help other writers. Today I discuss an out-of-the-mainstream editing trick you might want to try….

I scan about 80 blogs each week looking for writing and editing ideas that can help my readers. Young adult writer Deanna Cabinian isn’t on my list so I can’t recall who directed me to her blog, but she recently had a fascinating post.

Running under the headline, “Why You Should Edit Your Novel Backwards Plus Other Possibly Insane Yet Effective Editing Tricks,” her post described some out-of-the-mainstream editing tricks that just might help you. My fave? The idea of editing your manuscript backwards.

Here’s how Deanna put it:

If you have thirty chapters in your book start editing Chapter 30 first, then Chapter 29, and on down. I don’t know why I’d never tried this before, but it is my new favorite technique. You see things going backwards that you don’t see when editing in a linear fashion.

Musicians use this trick, too. You start with the last four to 10 bars of a piece. Then, moving backwards from there, you add on a few more bars each time until you’ve eventually worked your way back to the beginning. I learned this technique from my flute teacher Karen Smithson but never thought to apply it to writing.

I think the main benefit is psychological. Instead of running out of steam as you go along, instead, you build enthusiasm because you know that you’ve already finished the ending. I also don’t doubt that you perceive issues in a different way because you’re seeing the work in a different order. Proofreaders use this trick, too, (see point #6) to great advantage.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on Aug. 6/18.

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