Proofreading Other People's Writing
One of the fastest and most efficient ways to become a better writer is to proofread others’ writings… but what happens when you don’t have anyone knocking on your door begging for an editor?
No one said that you had to be asked to proof someone else’s works in order to do so! In fact, your local newspaper, favourite magazine, or frequently visited ezine could be the perfect place to find creative writings for you to rework. Though you’ll never be telling the authors that you’ve proofread and edited their pieces (and, let’s face it, they probably wouldn’t appreciate the comments from a stranger who isn’t paying them), you’ll be gaining valuable insight and experience for yourself. You’ll also get a feel for the “marketability” of one work versus another, a serious advantage if you’re planning to freelance.
Seeking out Creative WorksIt’s not tough to find creative writings such as fresh poetry, articles, greeting card sayings, slogans, or advertisement copy – just head to entertainment or news websites and print off some of the stories you see. Then, take your red pen and start making comments regarding the text, format, length, style, grammar and other relevant items.
You can also browse the many periodicals you most likely have littering your home or office. If you own them (and can therefore do as you wish with the copies), simply tear out pertinent pages and make editorial commentary as if you were being asked to review the creative work before it went to print.
After Your Editing is FinishedOnce you’ve examined and analysed a few of the works you’ve uncovered, you can start to compile a log of what you learned from the experience.
For example, you might come to realise that you don’t take enough literary risks in terms of format or genres. Or you might wind up with a long list of vocabulary words that you didn’t previously know (or at least rarely took advantage of using.)
Taking the Next StepAfter you’ve penned some thoughts regarding your proofreading process, it’s time to seriously explore new avenues and rewrite the creative piece (or one of the pieces) you’ve proofed as though you were being paid a handsome sum to do so.
But don’t make this literary project too easy on yourself – you won’t learn as much about yourself as a writer by reworking a story devoted to a topic you already love. Instead, challenge your wits by rewriting a creative work that doesn’t resonate with you at all… and make a huge effort to add oomph, personality, and charisma into your updated piece.
Plan to Revisit This Activity OftenNow that you’ve tried proofreading as a method of becoming a more proficient creative writer, don’t allow yourself to put it aside for long, lest you’ll lose the writer’s “edge” you want to gain. If you pledge to undertake this proofreading technique just once a quarter (or, for quicker results, more often), you’ll undoubtedly begin to more easily proofread and edit your own pieces for clarity, errors and enthusiasm.
Regardless of whether your editorial findings are positive or negative, they can and will always serve to teach you more about the art and science of creative writing.