BlogThe Writing ProcessEdit with Empathy for Your Reader

Edit with Empathy for Your Reader

Zara Altair
Author and Professional Semantic Writer
Published Jul 03, 2019

Woman Reading a Book

Enthusiasm drives your writing. You have a story to tell. Your strong feelings motivate you to write and finish the book manuscript. Your passion drives your writing activities.

Contents:
  1. What You Have to Say versus Who Is Reading
  2. Write Your Passion
  3. Edit with Empathy
  4. Use the Empathy Filter to Connect with Your Reader

What You Have to Say versus Who Is Reading

When it’s time to deliver your novel, the focus is on the reader. How will they relate to your characters? Your plot? The world you create? Are they believable? Is the dialogue engaging? Do they resonate with the theme? Is the theme clear without overshadowing the story?

Write Your Passion

Your passion drives the background work you do to create a strong story. You put your imagination in overdrive to work on character development, scene and chapter notes, world building, story arc. You build story elements, create a point of view to tell the story, and spend hours and hours writing scene after scene. Your passion drives you to get all the words out to create your story.

Turning your vision into words takes dedication and persistence. Many writers quit before they write The End. You fuel the long hours of research, planning, and writing with your passion.

You want your story and ideas to burn in your reader’s heart and your words to keep them turning pages. You get your head inside the scene to reveal the five senses to the reader. You create dialogue that reflects character personality traits and is loaded with subtext. You build to an exciting climax. You tie up all the loose ends. You finish your story.

But once you finish writing, you have more work to do. Now you switch from passion to empathy to polish your manuscript.

Edit with Empathy

Editing is all about the reader. Once your book is finished, it’s time to prime it for your reader. During the writing process your focus is bringing ideas and words out of your head and into words. Editing is about polishing phrases, using the best words, bending the structure to make what you have written the best for your reader.

There’s lots of advice out there about shifting from creative to logical mode when editing. It’s easy to get lost in the technical details of “perfecting” a manuscript. And, you should take care of technical editorial changes. You’ll work your way through the three stages of editing from structural, to line, to copy editing. You repair the big story changes first and work your way toward the tiny details.

  • Fix plot holes or gaps
  • Make character actions understandable
  • Edit for readability and sentence flow
  • Correct spelling and grammar errors

It doesn’t make sense to fix commas and semi-colons when you may be rewriting scenes or adding chapters. So, follow the editing sequence.

The filter you use for editing is connecting with your reader. That’s where empathy comes into play. Of course, the words are yours, but you need empathy to connect with your reader. As you make your changes, use your reader filter.

  • Will the reader understand my character’s motivation for this action?
  • Are my main characters three-dimensional rather than stereotypes?
  • Does this scene connect the story in a way that keeps the reader turning pages?
  • Is the dialogue in natural speech and not stilted? (You can relax grammar rules in dialogue.)
  • Am I alternating action and reaction scenes?
  • Do the obstacles to my protagonist increase in difficulty?
  • Does a turning point rely on coincidence rather than protagonist action?
  • Is my prose easy to read?
  • Do I alternate sentence length?

The reason you ask these questions as you review and edit your manuscript is to make your manuscript the most appealing and engaging for your readers. Going by “the rules” isn’t enough. Empathize with your reader’s experience.

PRO TIP: The reader filter works just as well for non-fiction books and articles. You want the reader to get your point and respond. If you review your words with the empathy filter, you construct a manuscript built to engage the reader.

Use the Empathy Filter to Connect with Your Reader

Your ultimate goal is to reach as many readers as possible. You write the best manuscript to deliver your story, then consider your reader as you go through the polish with editorial changes.

Author David Amerland underscores the power of empathetic editing.

It feels like a tug of war. But it isn’t. A writer reconciles the two by being in the service of the words. The words need to work equally for the writer and the reader. Otherwise all that passion, no matter how intense and fierce it may burn, will be wasted.

Transform your words written with passion into a memorable experience for your reader. Write with passion, edit with empathy.

When you have edited with your empathic filter, use ProWritingAid to add the final polish to engage your readers.

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Zara Altair
Author and Professional Semantic Writer

Zara Altair writes traditional mysteries set in ancient Italy under Ostrogoths rule in The Argolicus Mysteries. She coaches mystery screenwriters and novelists with story creation. She creates semantic web content for a select clientele.