Three Edits To Make When You Don’t Have Time to Edit

Want to write a book? Our proven program, 100 Day Book begins soon. Get the process to finish your book now. Learn more and sign up here.

How do you edit your 1,000-word article in five minutes, your 5,000-word short story in ten, and your 400-page novel in under an hour?

Hint: forget spell check.

A few years ago, I wrote articles for the music section of a local weekly. Desperate for assignments, I agreed to an article with a brutal turnaround. The Shiny Toy Guns show my editor gave me to review would be over at one in the morning on Sunday night, and since the paper went to press on Monday, my article was due first thing Monday morning.

No bueno.

When I made it home at 1:30 AM after the show, I chugged a coke and sat down at the computer. I spent most of the night writing, slept a few hours in the middle of the night, and finished the rough draft at 7:55 AM. The article was due in five minutes, and I still had to edit the stupid thing.

Five minutes to edit 1,000 words? Que loco! How was I going to do it?

Has this ever happened to you? Your English essay, newspaper article, book review, novel, 900-page tome about the rise of democracy in Eastern Europe is due in five minutes and you haven't finished editing it?

Introducing the Rapid Editing Checklist.

You can make these three edits in five minutes or less, and your teacher/editor/publisher will be smiling when they read it. Well, maybe not smiling, but at least they won't be crying and shredding your manuscript up into bits.

 1. Replace Weak Verbs.

Search (CTRL + F) for weak verbs like the following:

  • is
  • was
  • am
  • were
  • being
  • are
  • get
  • got

Replace those weak-sauce verbs with some con mas grande cojones. I don't know why I'm bringing out the Spanish on this post.

Not “Spot was running through the woods.” Instead, “Spot ran through the woods.”

Not “She got them a present.” Instead, “She gave them a present.”

2. Remove Adverbs.

Search (CTRL + F) for “ly” and take out adverbs, replacing with concrete detail.

Not “He laughed heartily.” Perhaps instead, “He slapped the table as his laugh shook the room.”

3. Take out other weak words.

Start by searching (CTRL + F) for “that.” Cut as many as you can without ruining the structure.

Not “The dress that she wore tore at the seam.” Instead, “The dress she wore tore at the seam.”

A few more cuttable words:

  • very
  • really
  • thing
  • stuff
  • almost
  • I think

I think this stuff is very easy, almost the easiest thing you could really do (see what I did there? I'm good, I know it).

PRACTICE

For ten minutes, free write about your day so far. Then, for five minutes, go through the rapid editing checklist. It might not even take you five minutes to finish.

Don't forget to post your practice in the comments for feedback. Have fun!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

100 Day Book Cover

Closes in . . .

Day(s)

:

Hour(s)

:

Minute(s)

:

Second(s)

Want to Write a Book?

100 Day Book Starts Soon: Sign up for our proven program, 100 Day Book, and get the coaching, training, and accountability you need to finally become and author and finish your book. The program closes soon though, so sign up now.

20 Comments

  1. Kati Lane

    The only thing that sucks about having hang-ups is this: when you face them square on, they can TAKE YOU DOWN. Which makes me think a hang-up should actually be called a hang-down. Maybe, maybe not.

    For me, in this phase of life at least , it’s all about the damn groceries. Forget about money, why can’t food grow on trees?!?

    To force this day awake, all I really need is an iced chai tea. I’m in the midst of simple money hoarding strategies (this term beats “budget” hands down), so with a sigh, I decide I’m not going to cave into my standard starbucks urges today. Quick, before my momentary sense of fiscal responsibility wanes: clean glass? Check. Green straw? Check. Ice in glass? Check. Chai juice? Check. Milk? Check.

    Oops. Not so fast. (Cue stench-soaked curdles to arrive on the scene.)

    The only thing I want more than to NOT be at the grocery store in this moment is to have my blasted iced chai tea. Specifically, a cheap, uncurdled iced chai tea. (I could buy 12 gallons of milk, I remind myself, for the cost of one single venti iced chai tea.)

    What a bizarre morning it turns out to be: these two base needs butting heads to the point of pain. I walk into Safeway, I walk out. I walk into Starbucks, I walk out. Into Einstein’s (my standard back-up plan). Out. Safeway. In. Suddenly, however, I’m face to face with the Starbucks INSIDE the Safeway. Twice. Insanity! My two counfounding dysfunctions duke it out and I am the pawn.

    Two hours — and fifty six dollars – later I sit down with my 75 cent, home brewed iced chai tea.

    Inconceivable.

    Maybe what I really need is for milk to grow on trees.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Kati! Sorry for the late reply. Here I am at long last, anyway.

      Love this line, “To force this day awake, all I really need is an iced chai tea.” Force the day awake, what a great turn of phrase.

      “Oops. Not so fast. (Cue stench-soaked curdles to arrive on the scene.) ” HA! That sucks!

      Great observation here, “(I could buy 12 gallons of milk, I remind myself, for the cost of one single venti iced chai tea.)”

      I love the energy in this post. Joyce Carol Oates once told Jonathan Safran, author of Everything is Illuminated, that the most important thing a writer needs is energy. And it’s one thing you can’t teach. Well you’ve got it.

      Reply
      • Kati Lane

        I’ve never thought about energy before in writing. If it can’t be taught…can it be defined? or is it one of those “aura” things?

        as i’m learning from your posts, i’m finding i’m inclined to respond to them not in any particular order. there’s a lot of great content to glean from! but don’t know if that’s convenient for you…to backtrack to comment on work that is water under your bridge? if it’s best for you that we stay current with you (no “late homework!”) that works great too. i just appreciate all the time you take to respond to each of us!

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          kati, you’re so nice to think about me. But no, this is for you. Respond in whatever order you want. I’m just sorry for taking a little while to get to you.

          Where it might help you to respond to the latest posts is that other writers in the Write Practice community will be able to see your work and give you feedback there. If you want to be sneaky and hide in the archives though that’s great 🙂

          Maybe I should get one of those latest comments boxes on the side?

          Reply
          • Kati Lane

            That could be a great way for the community to keep up with each other. I think as more and more people discover this site, you’ll find writers like me who want to have the chance to tap into the goodness of posts gone by.

          • Joe Bunting

            You’re right. Thanks for the feedback Kati. I’m glad your here 🙂

          • Kati Lane

            hey! i love your new bar. is this what you’re gonna use to find new comments in old posts? or does your template back-end have a place that lists them for you? yeah, i love the three sections….they’ll help us poke around the place!

  2. kati

    The only thing that sucks about having hang-ups is this: when you face them square on, they can TAKE YOU DOWN. Which makes me think a hang-up should actually be called a hang-down. Maybe, maybe not.

    For me, in this phase of life at least , it’s all about the damn groceries. Forget about money, why can’t food grow on trees?!?

    To force this day awake, all I really need is an iced chai tea. I’m in the midst of simple money hoarding strategies (this term beats “budget” hands down), so with a sigh, I decide I’m not going to cave into my standard starbucks urges today. Quick, before my momentary sense of fiscal responsibility wanes: clean glass? Check. Green straw? Check. Ice in glass? Check. Chai juice? Check. Milk? Check.

    Oops. Not so fast. (Cue stench-soaked curdles to arrive on the scene.)

    The only thing I want more than to NOT be at the grocery store in this moment is to have my blasted iced chai tea. Specifically, a cheap, uncurdled iced chai tea. (I could buy 12 gallons of milk, I remind myself, for the cost of one single venti iced chai tea.)

    What a bizarre morning it turns out to be: these two base needs butting heads to the point of pain. I walk into Safeway, I walk out. I walk into Starbucks, I walk out. Into Einstein’s (my standard back-up plan). Out. Safeway. In. Suddenly, however, I’m face to face with the Starbucks INSIDE the Safeway. Twice. Insanity! My two counfounding dysfunctions duke it out and I am the pawn.

    Two hours — and fifty six dollars – later I sit down with my 75 cent, home brewed iced chai tea.

    Inconceivable.

    Maybe what I really need is for milk to grow on trees.

    Reply
    • Joe Bunting

      Kati! Sorry for the late reply. Here I am at long last, anyway.

      Love this line, “To force this day awake, all I really need is an iced chai tea.” Force the day awake, what a great turn of phrase.

      “Oops. Not so fast. (Cue stench-soaked curdles to arrive on the scene.) ” HA! That sucks!

      Great observation here, “(I could buy 12 gallons of milk, I remind myself, for the cost of one single venti iced chai tea.)”

      I love the energy in this post. Joyce Carol Oates once told Jonathan Safran, author of Everything is Illuminated, that the most important thing a writer needs is energy. And it’s one thing you can’t teach. Well you’ve got it.

      Reply
      • kati

        I’ve never thought about energy before in writing. If it can’t be taught…can it be defined? or is it one of those “aura” things?

        as i’m learning from your posts, i’m finding i’m inclined to respond to them not in any particular order. there’s a lot of great content to glean from! but don’t know if that’s convenient for you…to backtrack to comment on work that is water under your bridge? if it’s best for you that we stay current with you (no “late homework!”) that works great too. i just appreciate all the time you take to respond to each of us!

        Reply
        • Joe Bunting

          kati, you’re so nice to think about me. But no, this is for you. Respond in whatever order you want. I’m just sorry for taking a little while to get to you.

          Where it might help you to respond to the latest posts is that other writers in the Write Practice community will be able to see your work and give you feedback there. If you want to be sneaky and hide in the archives though that’s great 🙂

          Maybe I should get one of those latest comments boxes on the side?

          Reply
          • kati

            That could be a great way for the community to keep up with each other. I think as more and more people discover this site, you’ll find writers like me who want to have the chance to tap into the goodness of posts gone by.

          • Joe Bunting

            You’re right. Thanks for the feedback Kati. I’m glad your here 🙂

          • kati

            hey! i love your new bar. is this what you’re gonna use to find new comments in old posts? or does your template back-end have a place that lists them for you? yeah, i love the three sections….they’ll help us poke around the place!

  3. Katherine Hayward

    Today I woke up, had cereal, fruit and toast for breakfast and watched some TV. I did an Internet search foe articles that may help me with my novel as I want to improve in the areas the proofreaders picked up on. I feel determined to finish my novel and know I work to the best of my ability.

    Reply
  4. RRRIIINNN

    wooooowwwwwwwwww. This really helped me. It is such a good idea, to cheat and edit the essay in less than 10 min.

    Reply
  5. Will

    (Difficult at first, but ended up being fun!)

    Going to school early in the morning is making a dash from my bed to my closet to the breakfast-table and out the door.

    The teachers talk, and I try to keep my eyes open. Try. Just this school year I remember falling asleep, once or twice. Maybe more.

    Mid-morning break arrives, and all of a sudden I’m awake. I dive into the library and pull out my copy of David Copperfield. It’s massive – I’m three hundred pages in and still haven’t reached the middle. I plod through it for twenty minutes before the bell rings. I realise I haven’t eaten anything. My face torn with grief, I put down the book, lament my poor page count, and hurry downstairs to the Physics lab.

    Then it’s lunch period, and all of a sudden I’m free. Free for a whole hour. Though I’m starving, I want to go back to David. I wolf down my plate, and I’m nose-deep into Dickens as I leave the cafeteria.

    Reply
  6. saurabh ukey

    (first time)
    today i woke up, i had milk with brown bread and go to gym.
    in gym i was working out on my back muscles,after that i came back to home make some breakfast and tiffin for my elder sister.
    then listening to music and reading newspaper with having breakfast.
    after my breakfast i studied all the day and surfing on the internet with chatting friends and now writing these entire day routine.

    Reply
  7. Christina

    I always incorporate nutmeg into my scrambled eggs. Nutmeg reminds me of mulled wine drunk whilst celebrating Christmas in July at university and enduring my mother’s lumpy mashed potato. Nutmeg scent stimulates so many memories and every morning I decide to focus on the happy memories in order to face each day determined to enjoy it.

    Reply
  8. Karla Phillips

    My day has been pretty average, at least until my boyfriend arrived home from work. I logged in some time with my 3DS, took a nap, and was introduced to a possible new friend. At a couple of points, my computer’s wireless connection acted up and I could not do much of anything online. After Jon came home, we had to make a trip to the Texas Department of Public Safety to renew his driver’s license. He could’ve gone alone, but I went to keep him company.
    We had to leave in a hurry. It’s rather ridiculous that banks, DMV’s and other public services are not open while people are off of work. Luckily, the place wasn’t too busy, and we stayed there for a little over twenty minutes.
    I have plans for tomorrow. It’s the beginning of a new month, which makes it’s a good day to incorporate new activities into my schedule. For example, I should update my own Driver’s License to reflect my new address, and start my core-centered exercise routine. I’ve already started cutting soda out of my diet again for the sake of losing weight. I hope replacing sodas and “extra hunger” with glasses of water will help me lose weight and lower my high cholesterol.
    It just occurred to me, but why do I become anxious at the idea of watching movies or other long-form shows? I don’t like being away from the computer for long. I’m maybe a little addicted to social media, but it’s more the case the computer has become a “comfort object” for me. Sitting away from it physically causes a mild amount of distress. It’s strange, I know. It’s just that the computer’s become my primary outlet for interacting with people other than Jon. It’s caused a sort of dependence I’m having difficulty shaking.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Unique Visitors Suck | The Write Practice - [...] Three Edits to Make When You Don’t Have Time to Edit  The Practice: for ten minutes, free write about…
  2. How To Write Books That Sing - […] Learn more about simplifying your prose by checking out our article, 3 Edits to Make When You Don’t Have…
  3. Writing an Essay? Here Are 10 Effective Tips - […] Don’t have time to edit? Here’s a lightning-quick editing technique. […]
  4. Three Edits To Make When You Don’t Have Time to Edit - Senna. Writer. - […] Three Edits To Make When You Don’t Have Time to Edit How do you edit your 1,000-word article in…
  5. Kill Your Darlings (Editing Woes) – Amelia Mackenzie - […] about editing isn’t knowing what to cut.  A writing buddy can help with that, or one of a million…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

120
Share to...