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Writing

Margaret Atwood’s 4 Tips for Editing Your Writing

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 5, 2020 • 2 min read

Novelists use many different writing skills in their journey from idea to completed book. One skill that can be overlooked by first-time writers, though, is editing. Many of today’s authors issue books via self-publishing, which can often mean that those authors edit their own work rather than use a professional editor. Great writers who self-edit handle everything from broad conceptual editing to copyediting, proofreading, and eventually rewriting. Self-editing skills are important for any level of writer, whether you are working with a dedicated editing team at a major publishing house, hiring a freelance editor, or publishing your own writing.

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Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative WritingMargaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing

Learn how the author of The Handmaid’s Tale crafts vivid prose and hooks readers with her timeless approach to storytelling.

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Margaret Atwood’s 4 Tips for Editing Your Writing

Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation, known for works like The Blind Assassin and The Handmaid’s Tale. Although she works with a professional book editor via her publishing company, she has developed great editing skills of her own. In fact, even if you’re working with the best editor in the industry, it’s still important to remain engaged in the editing of your own books. Here are Margaret Atwood’s editing tips for authors:

  1. Read your work aloud. As you enter the line-editing phase, read your own writing aloud. A good editor’s ear will catch awkward phrases that your eye often won’t.
  2. Take time to get the process right. The final stages are about texture and detail, so it’s imperative to go slowly with a fine-tooth comb. Feel free to be finicky about word choice, while weeding out weak verbs, weak adjectives, and clichés.
  3. Use physical editing tools. Try using a ruler to go down a printed copy of your story. This way you can read each line slowly and in isolation, looking for errors. An editor’s job is to notice everything. Even if you’re just proofreading your first draft, hold yourself to the standard of a professional editor.
  4. Use computer shortcuts. Avail yourself of your word processor’s find-and-replace function, which can be useful to search for a word you may have used too frequently, or to verify where and how many times a character’s name appears. Digital tools can make you a better editor and thereby a better writer.

Want to Learn More About Writing?

Whether you’re creating a story as an artistic exercise or trying to get the attention of publishing houses, mastering the art of fiction writing takes time and patience. No one knows this better than Margaret Atwood, who is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In Margaret Atwood’s MasterClass on the art of writing, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale provides insight into how she crafts compelling stories, from historical to speculative fiction.

Want to become a better writer? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons on plot, character development, creating suspense, and more, all taught by literary masters, including Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Dan Brown, Judy Blume, David Baldacci, and more.

Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing
Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing
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