03 The Three Stages of Editing

03 The Different Stages of Editing

Now let's explore the different stages of editing. If you're finding writing and editing difficult, it might help to understand what's going on in your brain at the time. With apologies to any neuroscientists or psychologists out there. This simple diagram gives an idea of the different activities going on in the brain. On the right side of the brain, we are much more creative. We can move randomly from task to task. We can use intuition and insights to solve problems. So this is what we need when we're generating content and ideas. As soon as we engage the left side of the brain, we process information in a linear manner. We're very focused on small details, we're analytical.

[00:00:52] And we can move in an only in a sequential order using logic to solve problems. We no longer have that insight and intuition and are much more focused on small details. So as you can see, this is very useful when we're editing, but not very helpful when we're writing. And a lot of the time we're trying to write and edit at the same time; our brain goes into a spasm, we get very tired and frustrated because we're not making an awful lot of progress.

[00:01:26] I'll share with you my writing and revision cycle. So these are the different stages you might go through when you're producing a piece of academic writing. First of all, there's the zero draft. This is getting your ideas down.

[00:01:41] It's just a very loose collection of thoughts and only for you. You're not going to share this with anybody. You don't even dignify this with the term 'first draft'. Then you move onto the first draft where there's some attempt at structure, but you're still developing your ideas. You're on the right side of the brain, being creative and not yet analytical.

[00:02:07] In the second draft, you're refining those ideas. You're strengthening your arguments, you're dropping anything that doesn't fit, those random ideas that you wanted to explore in your zero draft. In the third draft, you're thinking about your reader and their experience. So you're signposting your argument and improving the flow.

[00:02:29] In the fourth draft. You're focused on smaller details now, so emphasizing the argument, thinking about consistency and the clarity. And it's only in the very final draft that you're addressing those tiny details, the spelling and the grammar. So this is the proofreading stage. We're going to be looking at all of these stages throughout this course.

[00:02:53] And one of the most important ideas is to only address one stage at a time and to do them in order. There are three main stages of editing. First of all, structure, so that's getting all the right elements in the right order. Then the contents, the smaller components of your piece of writing, and then finally the small details. And it's vital to edit in this order.

[00:03:25] You don't want to spend ages editing all the tiny details in a paragraph only to decide that that paragraph doesn't fit and you're going to delete it. This is why editing can end up being a torturous and protracted process. So being more systematic about it will help you enormously. To summarize on this section, don't try to write and edit at the same time.

[00:03:50] Break it down. Think about that writing and revision cycle. You might need more stages in your cycle or fewer. Everyone is different, but breaking it down will definitely help you. And also break your editing down into three main stages. Think about the structure and the content and the details separately.

[00:04:11] Take them one at a time and in order, don't be jumping between small details and structure. Your writing will become very confused.