30-Day Challenge

Everyone loves a good 30-day challenge. Renegade Millionaire Robert Minton says he loves them because they compound:

“If you continue each 30 day challenge after the initial 30 days, you can dramatically change your life as time passes. One positive change becomes 6, 12, 24, 48 positive changes.”

And it’s true. Great habits that you can keep going after the challenge is complete feel really good. For those of us writers out there (and I suspect we are legion) I thought it could be fun to start the new year with an Editing Challenge.

So I’m thinking about editing and how best to invent this challenge that works for everybody, and apparently a Google search for “30 Day Editing Challenge” is a great way to get results—if you’re into film editing. (Which is not what I was looking for.) There are tons of images, Pinterest hits, and YouTube clips focused on 30-day challenges for AV peeps, many having to do with favorite tv characters or songs. But “30 Day Editing Challenge” presents a severe dirth of suggestions for writerly folks, which kinda surprised me.

Then it hit me. We can play the 30-Day Minimalism Game!

Day 1 – get rid of 1 thing
Day 2 – get rid of 2 things
Day 3 – get rid of 3 things

Only we’ll discard edited pages! See! It’s brilliant, right!? (Total genius. I know. Sometimes I amaze even myself.) And you can use the hashtag “minsgame” if you’re an Instragrammar (te he) like me.

The idea would be to take a huge stack of edits you’ve gotten back from peers, profs, or printed out and marked up yourself, and commit yourself to working through that stack, whittling it down to nothing by the end of the month.

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I had trouble holding everything still with the measuring tape in one hand and the camera in the other, but my stack is roughly 2″ tall. (And that’s just for the project I’m currently working on.) I’m not the only one who has one of these, right?

But maybe not everybody has a physical pile of pages, and a 30-day editing challenge could use some more editing-based structure. So then I thought, hey, we could work through editing and revision tips and tricks, kind of a mix n’ match style build-your-own. That way everybody can apply what works best for them. And Expert Editor Duncan Koerber helpfully provides 100 tips! That’s more than enough to choose from, surely? Pick one a day for 30 days. But just in case, if you’re the kind who wants specific, daily structure, Writerly Life’s Blair Hurley did exactly that.

Maybe you don’t have feedback from other people, but you’ve got something on the page that’s in a sorry state—perhaps a nano novel recently scribed? You could print that out. Or you could do a “file–> save as” to save the original to judge against the copy you’re changing.  Because deleting 18 pages counts as 18 pages even if you can’t “see” the result! For the nano-ers, here are 6 steps to try from the nano blog, and not surprisingly, Lifehacker has some good words for us too.

If all of this sounds like great fun but you just want to quick-fast-and-in-a-hurry version, I’ve compiled some of the most common editing and revision suggestions below:

  • Show Don’t Tell – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Show, and one for Tell. It’s okay to use both (action and narration) but if you’ve got huge unbroken chunks of just one or the other, you might look closer.
  • Active vs Passive – mark up your draft with two different colors, one for Active, and one for Passive.

Try These Tools

 


The Writing Center says:

  • Proofread for only one kind of error at a time. If you try to identify and revise too many things at once, you risk losing focus, and your proofreading will be less effective. It’s easier to catch grammar errors if you aren’t checking punctuation and spelling at the same time. In addition, some of the techniques that work well for spotting one kind of mistake won’t catch others.

The Grammarly Blog puts it into words this way:

  • Edit in multiple rounds. Go through at least twice for ‘higher’ concerns (what is missing? Who is the target audience, and is it written with them in mind?) and then ‘lower’ concerns, such as grammar, spelling, punctuation.

And Expert Editor concurs:

  • Look for one type of problem at a time. Don’t go into editing or proofreading attempting to find every problem in one pass. It’s hard for our brains to remember a long list of editing and proofreading categories. Instead, make multiple passes through the document. For example, you could choose to look only for wordiness or only for punctuation. This approach keeps your mind focused. If you look for every possible error in one pass, you’re more likely to miss errors.

The Muse says:

  • Nix Adverbs and Adjectives as Often as Possible. On your printout, mark through every adjective and adverb you see, and then add back the ones that you think are absolutely necessary. When in doubt, find a verb that says it better.

The University of Toronto agrees, telling us to:

  • Elevate the verb, so that the real action of the verb occupies the role of verb in the sentence. 

The Writing Cooperative reminds us:

  • If a sentence doesn’t add something new, it doesn’t matter how beautifully written it is: CUT IT OUT!

The Write Life adds this tidbit:

  • Replace negative with positive. Instead of saying what something isn’t, say what it is. “You don’t want to make these mistakes in your writing” could be better stated as “You want to avoid these mistakes in your writing.” It’s more straightforward. If you find negative statements in your writing that contain don’t, shouldn’t, can’t or another such word, find a way to rewrite them without the “not.” That will probably mean you need to find a more powerful verb.

Defiance College provides a handy graphic to differentiate revision vs editing, in case it concerns you, though I’d say let’s do all of them:

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And basically all the sources ever will give you these same pieces of advice:

  • Read it out loud.
  • Read it backwards.
  • Have someone else read it.

Constant Content adds this modern addition:

  • Read Your Writing in a New Format. If you typed it, print it out. Alternatively, convert your Word document to PDF format, or change your text to a different font, color, and size. These techniques will help you see your content from an “outsider’s” perspective and give you a more critical eye.

And always remember to:

  • Say it with a simpler word!

OKAY! We ready to rock this 30-day challenge? Let me know how it’s going! Much Love,
Jobe

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