Become A Citizen Editor -- Rules For Being Effective As A Self-Editor

1. The most valuable editor you'll ever have is you -- put your name here. Your self-editor is a voice of objectivity and moderation which will help you shape a mishmash of creativity into readable, distinctive work.

2. Build a self-editor as you build a life -- one day, one mistake, one success at a time. The effectiveness of a self-editor depends upon the maturity, experience and confidence of the writer.

3. Maintenance matters. Clean up spelling, grammar, redundancy and passive language as you go. Train yourself to fix things on the run. In revision, those little technicalities consume time, obscure creativity, cloud clarity and distract a writer's attention.

4. Don't sit there browbeating yourself more than five minutes at a time. You're a victim of percentages; 90 percent of what you write is dross; 10 percent will make it to another day, and five percent of that will make it to a clean first draft.

5. Don't sit there praising yourself more than five minutes at a time. See percentages above.

6. Keep a balanced perspective by applying the "believe half" rule to all external response to your work. Things are never as bad nor as good as they seem. No matter how much your editor loves your manuscript, cut all of her superlatives in half to get a realistic idea of your worth. No matter how many negative comments you get from a critique reader, take in 50 percent and ignore the rest as poisonous to your health.

7. Respect your writing rhythm. It's necessary to finish several articles or a book or two in order to learn your writing rhythm and blues.

8. Backstop your inner editor with real world feedback. Have your work critiqued regularly by tough, trusted readers.

9. The act of writing is physical; the art of writing is mental. A writer spends most of her time thinking. Thinking doesn't add lines to the pages, but it adds weight to the lines. One is more important than the other.

10. Never turn out work that's "good enough." Make it better. Add your insight. Sharpen research. Lavish care on your language. Fight the mediocre with all your heart or be willing to wear the label.