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Like any good aspiring scribe I like to read the blogs of people in the publishing world, and I recently came across two posts from BookEnds Literary Agency that made me remember something: Writers at all levels are pretty much dealing with the same problems.

These posts are aimed at people who someday hope to get paid for their writing, but it’s surprising how the advice isn’t all that much different than what we often tell people in the writing center about revision.

The first post is titled Finding Your Middle Editor, and I think this is something important for all writers at all levels to understand. The gist is that your paper isn’t just a place to seek out errors in need of correcting, it also has something to say. It’s something worth reading. That’s where finding your middle editor comes in. You have to edit, but you also have to read. What prompted this post was when the agent noticed a mistake one of her interns had made in editing a manuscript. (And keep in mind, to land an internship at this agency, this person has to know a thing or two about writing.) The mistake? She over-edited:

“It’s not hard and it usually happens when you forget to read the book and let things jump out at you, and instead you read the book with the intent to find things, picky little things.”

Read that sentence again and replace “book” with “essay.” Makes sense, right? It’s always good to take a critical eye to your work, but also remember that in the revision process, it’s also good to remember to step back and look and what you’re trying to accomplish, how it’s working, and whether or not there is anything getting in the way of your message. The message, after all, is what counts the most, not just the out-of-place comma or run-on sentence.

But when to do edit? When to read? This other post is a great guide to looking at how you can approach your rewriting. In short, the author lays out the differences between revising, line-editing, copy-editing, and proof-reading. More importantly, it’s made clear that these all happen at different stages and aren’t the same thing. In the writing center we often refer to these stages more vaguely as looking at “global,” “regional,” and “local” issues, but the idea remains the same. When you’re rewriting, there are differnt things to look for–the overall message and organization, the flow of paragraphs and sentences, gramman and puncuation, to name a few–and you can’t always see them all at once.

So remember, revision isn’t always easy, not even for people getting paid to do it.

How do you edit?