Every writer, author, artist, and creative person has their own process by which they complete a project. For me, I often feel daunted by the magnitude of large, involved projects, which makes them the kind I need an extra push to start.
The small ones are easy—they excite me and I can't wait to get going. The complex ones, not so much. That's because I know I have a lot of factors to keep track of, meaning I will have to focus on various parts of the material, and take one stretch of time for each part. And review, revise, and reframe my focus several times.
So I go through my own "process" to get the task done in a way that's comfortable for me. I am sure my process is unique to myself, but is probably common to other writers in that we go through similar steps, but probably do so in different ways.
Let's look at an example. If I have a project that is, for instance, a long proposal with a table of contents, many pages of text, lots of charts and graphs, and maybe an appendix, then it's not just one project, it's several tasks. That's because my own "process" for completing the work isn't proofreading and editing from cover to cover in one fell swoop. For me, doing things properly requires several passes through the material, and refocusing my objective at each turn. Therefore, my project might be completed in the following manner:
- Proofread from cover to cover and find spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors, any inconsistencies that pop up, and marking lines that need to be reworded or restructured. This is where I look at the material with a micro perspective, and not think about the whole theme or way the message is constructed. It gives me a sense of the complexity of the work and revisions that need to be communicated and/or completed.
- Is editing the writing for structure and flow part of the scope of the project? If it's not my own project, and the author doesn't want his/her text to be altered, then only minor suggestions might be appreciated here, to let their work stand as is. But if the text requires some substantial editing for clarity and impact, another look through the material comes next. Here I would completely refocus and disregard the small stuff, seeing things through my "big picture" lens. Starting from the beginning...again. (Depending on the material and scope of the work, this step might best be done first, before looking at spelling, punctuation and grammar.)
- Now that I've seen the way the material is laid out and presented, and have discovered areas vulnerable to inconsistency, it's back to the beginning to go through all pages to look for consistent presentation and formatting. Are all the headers in the same font, size and style? Are all figures presented in the same number formatting? Do charts have titles, and photos have captions? Do the pages have headers and page numbers that are all aligned the same way from chapter to chapter? I mark anything that I notice is not the same throughout the material. Sometimes word processing programs go wonky and you get areas where line spacing, alignment or text size has shifted. Detail-oriented people like me love this part. :-)
- Next, are there footnotes or a table of contents? An index? I check for errors with footnote numbering or placement, and whether the table of contents or index has correct page numbers. Will the page numbering be affected after editing? Are the titles in the contents consistent with those in the text? Automatic tables of contents can be created in word processing programs, but some people don't use that feature. So again, starting with the beginning of the material, I make another pass using my focus on just checking these things.
This demonstrates how my personal "process" to edit or write material is comprised of several steps where I reframe my focus each time, so I can concentrate on one matter at a time. This is not to say that I don't—for example—find subheading formatting errors as I go along while proofreading spelling and grammar. I usually do. But if you are dealing with material that has a lot of visuals, it's very helpful, for instance, to make a separate pass through the material, just looking at all the headings and subheads to check for errors and consistent formatting.
In this way, I know I can achieve thorough, professional and great-looking results.
This article Copyright © Cheryl E. Kraynak