7 Must-Dos for Editing Your Writing (and Leadership)

by Alli Polin on April 14, 2015

editing your writing and leadership

This month I’ve made a commitment to editing the book I wrote during last November’s NaNoWriMo. Every day I spend somewhere between 20 minutes and two hours diving into my work, do my best not to cringe, and enjoy playing with a creative spark. I remind myself, first drafts are not meant to be perfect, they’re just meant to be written… you go from there. That’s the gift of editing your writing, it takes the rocks and cuts and shines them into gems. 

As I use different techniques to edit my writing, I realize that many of the editing approaches can and should be used by leaders. 

Whether you’re editing your writing or your personal leadership could use a good edit, here are seven surefire ways to stronger results.

1) Where are you getting bored?

If I’m  reading my own writing and am yawning, I need a big time edit in that area. Leaders, are you yawning your way through work and life?


What’s boring you?

What would give you more energy?

Has your passion gone on hiatus?

What change can you make today to get back some of your spark?

2) Notice how often you’re using “to be” and passive voice

When you use “to be” a lot in your writing, it’s often in a passive voice and passive voice lacks clarity, responsibility, and action. Leaders, where are you  passive?


Where are you pushing off accountability? (I was blindsided, I wanted it to be great)

How can you be clearer with your team to facilitate success? (Be sure to do your best vs. Pay attention to formatting when working on the presentation) 

When have you been stepping back from the action and it’s time to step forward?

3) Does every sentence start with “I”?

If my main character is the only one thinking and doing anything at all, it’s time for a change. What about you? Are you an “I” centric or a “we” centric leader?


Am I taking credit for others work?

Why am I always the only one doing the talking?

When was the last time I asked someone on the team for input?

How can I empower others to lead and share their voice?

4) Are you confused?

Sometimes bad writing makes leaps that the reader can’t follow. Are you a leader who makes assumptions that others are in the know or are you giving the full picture?


How often are you met with blank stares in meetings?

Do you choose brevity over sharing the “why” behind key decisions?

Do you overuse the greatest parenting line of all time: “because I said so?”

How often is your team coming to you to clarify your direction?

5) Will you let go of what’s not working?

Some scenes just end up being filler; they don’t forward the story and have got to go. Are you a leader who is holding on to the tried and true even when it’s no longer working?


Where am I missing out on stronger results because I don’t want to leave my comfort zone?

How many times will we try and fail before charting a new course?

Do you have a “my way or the highway attitude?”

Have you let others on the team make recommendations and run with them?

6) Ask a Friend

Beta readers are essential for writing success. Who do you trust to give you real-deal feedback when you need it most?


Do you have a personal board of directors?

Are people on your team willing to tell you the truth?

How do you react when people give you personal feedback?

Do you lack trust?

7) Are you a floating character?

Some novels have a character that doesn’t impact anything. If they disappeared, it wouldn’t matter. Where are you floating?


Are you making a positive impact?

What is your vision for your personal leadership legacy?

Where do you need to spend more time?

Who do you need to give more focused attention?

Editing your writing can be stressful. The words you so lovingly crafted in round one need to shift and change. It’s also painful when you’re going through a leadership edit. It requires you to step fully into the discomfort of new behaviors, thoughts, and actions. 

I challenge you to break the frame in your writing and your personal leadership. Challenge yourself to go to the edge and leap. You’ll find stronger results, greater impact, and a more meaningful experience on the other side. 

What would you add? What do you need to edit in your personal leadership?

For coaching, consulting or speaking Let’s Connect!

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Chery Gegelman April 14, 2015 at 7:10 am

Such advice Alli – that I’m saving it for my own future editing project thank you!

And awesome that your editing project also makes a powerful blog post! 🙂


Alli Polin April 14, 2015 at 7:20 am

Thanks, Chery! It’s a long process, but I can already see the manuscript transforming. Small changes… big results 🙂


Cynthia Bazin April 14, 2015 at 8:00 am

Thank you Alli for this article… Definitely saving this for my own writing project! As always you put out amazing articles. I wish you an awesome day my friend!


Alli Polin April 14, 2015 at 8:23 am

Always appreciate your support! Thanks, Cynthia!!


Terri Klass April 14, 2015 at 8:55 am

Great post, Alli!

Editing can be tedious and I love the idea of asking what is boring to us. I think a lot about this and when I experience disinterest or boredom, I always know it is a wake-up call to venture out and try something new. With that in mind, I have ventured out and begun to work on my marketing strategy. As challenging as it is, I am working hard to make it happen.

Thanks Alli and I love the metaphor of your book editing! You always keep us thinking!


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 2:31 am

Totally with you, Terri…. boredom is a signal for fresh ideas and experiences. You have no idea how much I love that you’re stepping out of your comfort zone with your marketing. I’m watching with admiration and ready to offer support in any way I can!

Appreciate you!


John Thurlbeck April 14, 2015 at 9:52 am

Hi Alli

I’m joining the others and saving this for later in the year as I move to complete my second book, though first solo effort!

Thank you so much for the advice. And please, please tell me what I’ve missed to enable me to create what you have under the Energizing Leadership stuff!

Kind regards

John 🙂


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 2:35 am

Excited about your FIRST book (and mine) available on Monday the 20th on Amazon! I’ve learned a lot about editing and letting go while working on Energize Your Leadership. Initially resistant, I learned how the editors ideas could mesh with mine and create a stronger final product. This time around, I’m doing a heavy edit on my own before bringing in the hired guns.

Thanks so much for your support and connection, John!


Brenda Lee April 14, 2015 at 10:24 am

Fabulous tips Alli!

Wait, did you write this AFTER you read my book? 😉 I was in the middle of doing a rewrite of my very first short, but then stopped myself. Even though it had some grammatical errors (pre Grammarly), I want it to stay in its original content so I remember where I came from and how far I’ve come along. We all make mistakes in our writing but that’s how we perfect ourselves, right?

Passing this one along!



Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 2:36 am

Love that you’re keeping your first short story as-is. Sometimes it’s great to have those reminders, see and feel the growth and to roll it all into our next challenge. Look forward to reading more from you! I have one of your ebooks on my kindle now. 🙂



Julian Palumbo April 14, 2015 at 11:37 am

Thanks for your insights! Editing is a great way to tame that ego after it has had it’s say. Time to then swing the focus around to edit from the reader’s point of view. It is a little humbling, isn’t it?


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 2:38 am

Welcome, Julian! Editing is definitely a battle between my heart, mind and ego! When my first Beta readers came back with feedback, I was like “really? you think so?” Instead of fighting to prove them wrong, I allowed them to be right and saw new places to dig in and continue to transform the work. Humbling? Very big yes.



Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ April 14, 2015 at 2:49 pm

Hi Alli,
Such powerfully simple advice that every single leader could execute with a morning review!

Super post.
All the best,


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 3:34 am

Thanks so much, Kate! Change starts with noticing… and focused action follows from there. Appreciate your support!


LaRae Quy April 14, 2015 at 9:03 pm

This is a keeper for anyone writing a blog or article! Great summary, Alli. You hit upon ALL the questions I run into every time I sit down and write.

For me, the most important was “where are you getting bored?” I simply cannot something on a topic that bores me or does not personally resonate. And I’ve up trying. By doing so, there is a LOT less pressure on myself to pretend to be an expert at something I am clearly not. Most importantly, however, is that by watching where that “bored thing” comes up, I can continually focus my writing and training on topics that really do energize me.

And if we’re energized in what we’re doing, we’re doing something that has meaning and value for us.

Great article, Alli!


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 3:44 am

Thanks, LaRae. I’ve written articles outside of my area of interest… and given interviews too. You’re right, when we’re bored, that’s what other people get from us too.

Editing is not always fun but is is always necessary. In writing, life and leadership a good edit can remove what’s not working and give us an opportunity to make new choices.

Thanks for your comment!


Jon Mertz April 14, 2015 at 10:46 pm


Great editing to use. An add would be understanding what you are learning from your writing. Based on lessons learned, how is the structure changing in how you write (lead) and what are you improving. Ensure your sentences includes some open-ended questions, too. Think time and openness to hear what other think as well.




Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 3:53 am

You’re absolutely right. You need to know what you want to express and adjust your approach to engage others in your learning. I’ve discovered that I’m better able to pivot when I give myself time to reflect and move forward with intention too.

Thanks for sharing your insights, Jon!


Karin Hurt April 15, 2015 at 8:15 am

Your post is so timely for me. I’ve been working with a coach on really taking one of my keynotes to the next level. Yesterday, I said “something’s wrong with this story.” He thought about it for a minute and said, “yeah… it ends in the wrong place. I need to know what happens next.” I fixed that and… BINGO. So I would add, be sure you’re sharing enough of the story.


Alli Polin April 15, 2015 at 10:02 pm

Share enough of the story – yes! Also to know when the ending has not been written quite yet… leave room for more to come.

Exciting! A speaking coach! Bet your keynote will rock.

~ Alli


Grenae Thompson April 25, 2015 at 7:10 pm

Outstanding article, Ali. Can’t wait to read your book. You writing style is user friendly and the insights you share reflect your passion and experience. And I hope you have a wonderful purple pen for editing!

Much success with your book,


Alli Polin April 26, 2015 at 1:05 am

Thanks so much, Grenae! I’m enjoying the editing process but it’s a slow one and it’s only my first big pass through! Will take a few. I’m sure you can guess, I have lots of colored pens as my companion 🙂

Appreciate your encouragement!


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