Jon Gingerich of LitReactor.com has a great post on editing your story. But his advice is also useful for nonfiction writers as well. I used to edit a journal at law school, and I followed an editing pattern similar to the one suggested by Gingerich.
You see, when you edit, you shouldn’t be looking only at spelling and grammar. Although these things are important, this should often be the last bit of editing you do. In the beginning, you should look at the bigger things, like plot and structure. For nonfiction writers, consider whether your piece successfully makes your argument? Only then should you start zooming in on the smaller details like characterization and whether your chapters and paragraphs have a good flow. Finally you zoom in on the smallest bits: spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Looking at Gingerich’s article, you should realize that any successful writer will spend more time rewriting than writing. Whether fiction or nonfiction, your first draft will be crap, let’s be honest. The hard part is figuring out which parts are less crappy than others. Then the real fun can begin: the fun of editing, re-writing, editing, re-writing, and still more editing and re-writing. But with every draft, you’ll see progress. Craptastic becomes merely crappy, and eventually fantastic, if you stick with it. Use Gingerich’s tips, and I’m sure your writing will improve.