Writing, Community & Government

Self-Editing: Re-Visioning Your Work

Roxane Gay

Lesson time 12:46 min

Get a deep dive into the processes of revising, editing, and proofreading. Roxane discusses how to edit yourself, what you should look for in feedback from others, and how you know when a piece is finished.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Learn to Edit Your Own Work · Stand by Your Work in 20 Years · Tics · Feedback · Say Everything You Need to Say


[MUSIC PLAYING] - There are all kinds of things that make a writer successful. Of course, you have to have good ideas. You have to have a way with language. You have to be able to actually commit to getting the work on the page. But so much of the work of writing happens after you've written your first draft. And that's where revision, proofreading, and editing come in. You want to make sure that not only do you write something great, but that you reshape it into something even better. People tend to conflate proofreading, revising, and editing as if they're all the same thing. And, in fact, most people only proofread their writing as if a typo is what's gonna stand between them and publication. The truth is if you have great writing, you can make grammatical mistakes, you can make punctuation mistakes, you can misspell words, as long as it's not sloppy. People make these mistakes. But if you just have bad thinking and bad ideas, or ill-thought ideas, if you don't expand enough, if you don't support your arguments with evidence, I mean, those are the kinds of things you catch during revision. If sentences are clunky, if they're too long, if they're too short, if they don't sound good, if they don't make sense in connection with each other, then you haven't edited your piece. And so it's really important to recognize that all three of these things can be useful, but that the most important things are to revise and edit your piece. Revision is really re-seeing your work. And that means taking a step back from your work and reconsidering it without treating what you've already written as immutable and precious. You have to be willing to rethink your work, rethink everything about it. You may not make significant changes, but you have to be willing to make significant changes. And so what is another way that you can approach whatever it is you've done in your writing? And would that other way be more effective? And so it's really high-level thinking about your piece. Editing is when you start to go in and think about language and the interplay of language-- how your paragraphs are organized, what the structure of your piece is looking like, what is happening at the sentence level-- and polishing that language and getting it to where you want it to be, where the piece sounds exactly right. And then, finally, proofreading is when you give your work that final polish and you start to look at grammar or punctuation, make sure that everything is spelled correctly. It's that final polish that you put on the piece before you send it to wherever it's gonna go. [MUSIC PLAYING] Everyone can edit themselves. And everyone should edit themselves. At some point, your work will be in the hands of an editor. But until you get there, you have to edit yourself and put your work in the best position possible. And so one of the key ways that I revise and edit is that I read my work aloud. Now this is not something that's gonna ...

About the Instructor

Bestselling author, professor, and New York Times columnist Roxane Gay has connected to readers around the world with her unyielding truth-telling and highly personal feminism. In her MasterClass, she teaches you how to own your identity, hone your voice, write about trauma with care and courage, and navigate the publishing industry. Learn how to document and narrate the world as you see it—and then demand change.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Roxane Gay

Bestselling author and cultural critic Roxane Gay teaches writing for social change and arms you with the skills needed to make an impact.

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