(Both of which are looming for me)
I think ‘word economise’ is the best piece of editing advice I’ve read/been given. It may be more general than some other pieces of advice, such as “remove all ‘could’, ‘just’ and ‘seemed’ phrases”, but editing – and even writing first or subsequent drafts – with the phrase ‘word economise’ in my head is useful. This is because it allows me to think small – and thinking small leads to less elaborate turns of phrase.
It is particularly useful for me as someone who tends to make a phrase-mountain out of a molehill. I readily admit (nowadays) that my writing can be too florid and I should get into the habit of saying a point in three words, not five.
So, anyway, it turns out that I also do this in my essays. For Philosophy, that’s not so much of a problem; the humanities are creative and allow flexibility. However, for Psychology, structure is needed. Rigid, unflorid, statement-and-evidence type sentences.
Once again, I have great overlap between my writing work and my school work, even when they clash and throw each of my schedules off kilter. (There are never enough hours in a week!)
Here, for Psychology, I’ve been told that not only can I cut away the nice sentence structures, for instance replacing ‘such as’ with its shorthand version ‘eg’, I should make my sentence as concise as possible. Oh joy. Short sentences.
The annoying thing is, I can tell that these good words of editing (despite sometimes being against my natural written flow) are coming into my subconscious and leaving with their mark pressed upon my mind. I may not yet have transferred all the skills to the essays, but they are coming through in my novel. Longer sentences, read aloud, are being chopped, changed and converted into shorter sentences.
I’m working on the second half now, and, though finding this half the more difficult, there is some ease in it being the tenser half where short sentences are coming in very handy.
In this way, editing is coming back and forth, from school to my novel, and from the workings of my novel to the crafting of my school essays.