Part 6: Tips for Editing and Other Things You Can’t Do on Your Own
“To write is human, to edit is divine.” — Stephen King
Now let’s assume you’ve written something. There’s one more step before you share your work with the world. For the sake of this post, let’s use a short piece of fiction as an example.
When you’re side hustling you have to figure out everything for yourself. You have to do the work. Especially if you don’t have a budget. You have to learn to make a website, use social media, market your work, use Photoshop, etc. (More on those topics in later posts).
Feedback & Editing
Writing is usually a lonely endeavor. You work up a sweat on a fiction story or article for hours, days even. You work diligently to delete any spelling or grammar mistakes. You’re happy with the result.
Now, you can do two things. Just post it and let it live on the internet, baring your first draft, naked for everyone to see. Perhaps you get a few comments on grammar mistakes. You made something interesting, but for most people, it’s still lacking something. Like an unpolished diamond.
OR you can ask other people to first have a look at what you’ve written down. Like professional writers do. People whose initial first drafts never see the light of day, because what they eventually publish is draft 127. And there is a reason for that.
To make quality work, you can’t rely on just you. You need others. But what if you are starting out? Or if you have been writing for a while, but do it as a hobby? When you don’t have an editor, let alone a contract with a publisher. Hiring someone to do this can be expensive. We’re starting out remember? Don’t make costs just yet if you can avoid it.
Ask your (literary) friends, the avid readers, maybe even fellow writers or friends who studied literature or publishing to read and comment on your work.
Every short story I write is read and commented on by at least 3–5 people before I publish it. Most of them are native speakers (since I’m not). It’s not only spelling or grammar they look at. They look at continuity if the things that I claim make sense. If my characters are relatable, real, and have depth. If I don’t utter any nonsense.
The most important thing though — the stories get better and the message I want to bring across becomes stronger.
(Bonus tip: install the browser plugin Grammarly, it automatically searches for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors in your work. It’s great! I’m currently on the free plan, but I’m contemplating buying the premium version).
What Else Could You Ask For?
When I started out writing short stories and building my website early in 2017, I knew I couldn’t do EVERYTHING myself. I had to ask for help.
Initially, I was hesitant with asking, it felt like I was asking favors everywhere. Asking for reposts, shares, likes, comments, downloads from strangers and people I knew.
Programming help on my site from friends. Proofreading my work. Photoshop skills. And of course, asking my friend to illustrate my stories, initially without a budget.
I noticed something else, people like to help (especially your friends or family). A friend helped me program something on my website. With another friend, who had podcasting experience, I’ve discussed recording, editing and mixing software for making my podcasts.
Since I have no money to pay someone to edit my story or make an illustration, I help out the people who help me too. For instance, Jonat, who makes the illustrations for my stories, didn’t have his own website yet. So I helped him out building one through Squarespace, the service I use for my own site as well.
Another thing you can do is go to sites like Fiverr.com. For my podcast, I needed a jingle. I like music, but I’m no composer. This was definitely something I needed to hire someone for. Crazy thing is, I only spent $5 for a complete and professional jingle!
Same with my logo. I made some sketches myself and then I selected someone on Fiverr to make a few designs. From that, I picked one. Then Jonat worked his magic for the final touch, and ever since I have a solid logo (well I think so at least). Cost: $10.
Then there’s reaching out to people. Asking bloggers to repost my stories or share them. I’m always asking people for something. In the beginning, I didn’t really like to do this, but in order to grow and to try to get my stories out there for as many people to read, I have to. And when I get a response, it’s usually polite and sometimes even enthusiastic! There’s more on marketing your work and reaching out in a later chapter.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Turn it around: would you help a friend (or even a stranger) in helping them pursue one of their dreams? So, collaborate. Create together.
Even though you initially write on your own, before your story sees the light of day, other people should have a look first. It simply makes your work better if you ask for feedback.
That’s part of the creative process. However, in the process of growth, you need help too. Reach out to people who are better skilled at things than you are, be careful with your expenses though (use Fiverr). Last, you need to rely on others too in reaching an audience. Be it through Facebook groups, other blogs or publications.
You’re not alone!
Call to action
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