Why you should stop proofreading your work right now! (Or why writing for content, editing, and proofreading should be three separate steps.)

Do you ever find that you open your work-in-progress document and keep reading back over what you wrote in the last session? Perfecting every sentence and making sure the flow is just right?

I’ve been there, done that, and got the T-shirt. I’d win the prize for perfect prose every time, but it’d take me an age to get there. In fact,  I’d be lucky if I got the writing out the door in time for the competition deadline.

I’d like to share this process I use to get writing done more quickly and to make sure it’s good enough too:

  1. Write an outline (or if you’re firmly in the anti-outline camp, then skip straight to step 2).
  2. Get the content down. Don’t worry about getting the perfect flow at this stage, or stopping to find the perfect reference to back up what you are saying. Just get the IDEAS down.
  3. Edit for structure. At this stage, you’re editing for the macro-level, or ‘big picture’ structure. Are the ideas in the right place? Does the argument/ storyline follow logically?
  4. Edit for style. This is where you can edit on the paragraph and sentence level. Make sure the paragraphs flow from one to the next as well as internally, and make sure your writing flows between and within sentences. Now’s also the time to find that perfect word or metaphor to explain a concept.
  5. Leave your writing to sit. Preferably leave your writing to sit for 48 hours and go and do something totally different. Take a walk, go for a swim or catch up with an old friend. 
  6. Proofread your final piece. Now is the time for proofreading. This is where you catch all those pesky little typos and punctuation errors. If you can, get someone else to help with this stage. The best writers don’t proofread their own work — thanks mum/ CPO*

For tips on proofreading your final draft, grab your free download here.

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