Tag Archives: Editing

Guest Post: In Defense of Editing as You Go, by Julie Glover

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We’re often told to “turn off the inner editor” and just get the whole story down before going back and editing. To some of us, that advice seems counterintuitive and anxiety-provoking. Thank you to Julie Glover and to Writers in the Storm for this balanced article about self-editing.

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Writing process is a topic of ongoing conversation among writers, whether just starting or multi-published. Plenty of books and articles have been written and workshops and webinars held to suggest this writing process or that one, claiming it’s The Way It’s Done.

While savvy writers out there reject the one-size-fits-all message, we still have certain presumptions that we mostly swallow. One of these can be summarized as…

Write First, Edit Later

There’s no end to the advice to simply turn off your inner editor and vomit words onto the page. Just get the story down!

Consider these quotes from some truly great authors:

“Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down.” ~ John Steinbeck

“Don’t cross out. (That is editing as you write. Even if you write something you didn’t mean to write, leave it.) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation, grammar. (Don’t even care about staying within the margins and lines on the page.) Lose control. Don’t think. Don’t get logical. Go for the jugular.” ~ Natalie Goldberg

“Simply refuse to look at anything you have written until the last page is done. Period.” ~ James Frey

“Don’t get it right, just get it written.” ~ James Thurber

“Write the first draft as if you’re out for a spontaneous night with a devastatingly handsome man you met abroad. Run wild, take chances, and don’t even consider the possibility that you’re making the wrong choice. Just go for it.” ~ Christine J. Schmidt

Obviously, this works for many, or even most, writers. Too often, we don’t know enough about our plot and characters, and the first draft is our opportunity to discover, explore, learn, and hone our story.

If that process works for you, embrace it.

But Is It True for Everyone?

W. Somerset Maugham presumably said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

We don’t all write the same, and a process that turns out one writer’s best work could be the death of another’s work. Let’s look at four reasons why editing as you go is a terrific idea for some authors.

1. Get the Foundation Solid

You may be writing along and reach a point in the novel where you feel unmotivated, stuck, or that something’s just off. Perhaps you can’t put your finger on it, but something isn’t working the way it should.

We talk about story structure because we understand that a novel needs a decent foundation to hold up well. That includes a plot without holes, a strong character arc, a compelling antagonist, and much more. But whether you plotted or pantsed this far, you might have a kink in your structure and continuing to write scenes would be like adding more stories onto a tilted house.

Going back and fixing the problem, or editing as you go, could keep your story from needing a total renovation later.

To continue reading this article, click here.

In the Meme Time: Write Without Fear

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Photo by Hannah Grace on Unsplash.

In the Meme Time: E is for Editing

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Editing

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Guest Post: What’s Missing from your Self-Editing by Ryan Lanz

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Guest Post: What’s Missing from your Self-Editing by Ryan Lanz

Thank you to Ryan Lanz for this suggestion-packed article, which first appeared on his website, A Writer’s Path.

For some writers, editing strikes fear into their hearts. Okay, perhaps not fear, but some discomfort. At least a stomach ache, right?

Before you reach for the antacids, let’s discuss the different methods of editing and introduce some ways that might make it less intimidating.

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Why do we edit?

I know, it’s a simple question. But as you’ve observed in some of my past blog posts, I strive to get to the root of the subject at hand. By mastering the basics, we can reach many heights (thank you, fortune cookie from lunch).

  • To look professional
  • To keep from annoying or putting-off your readers
  • For the writer to further prove that he/she is not an amateur
  • To avoid discouraging an agent, editor, or publisher from considering your manuscript

I imagine those all seem pretty obvious. The last item was particularly interesting to me, though. I’ve read many interviews where literary agents say that spelling/grammar errors are often within the top three pet-peeves. One commented that a writer can’t be trusted with a book deal if the same writer can’t be trusted with basic grammar.

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Types of Editing

That also brings us to the different types of editing. I once thought this was fairly straight-forward. Ah, but the life of an editor is anything but simple. There are many types of editing that one can do. Here are some of the different categories:

  • Proofreading
  • Line Editing
  • Copyediting
  • Substantive Editing
  • Developmental Editing
  • Manuscript evaluation
  • Manuscript critique

Related: Check out available proofreaders and copyeditors here.

Some editors process these terms/categories a bit differently, but essentially it depends on how detailed you want an editor to go. Sometimes, it’s just easier to pay an editor to work on your manuscript; however, you can always go the route of self-editing.

Self-Editing

So, how do you self-edit? This isn’t too difficult on the surface, but there are a few methods that might help to keep in mind.

To continue reading this article, click here.

Monday Morning Wisdom #157

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Monday Morning Wisdom #157

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The secret to editing your work is simple: you need to become its reader instead of its writer. ~Anna Deavere Smith

Photo of Anna Deavere Smith by Wexner Center.

Guest Post: 19 SELF-EDITING TIPS FOR YOUR WRITING by Jacqui Murray

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Thank you to author Jacqui Murray for today’s guest post, which previously appeared on A Writer’s Path.

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Now that I’ve published my first novel, To Hunt a Sub, I can say from experience that writing it and editing it took equally long periods of time (and marketing is just as involved). After finishing the final rough draft (yeah, sure) and before emailing it to an editor, I wanted it as clean possible. I searched through a wide collection of self-editing books like these:

The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer

Self-editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne

The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall

…and came up with a list of fixes that I felt would not only clean up grammar and editing, but the voice and pacing that seemed to bog my story down.

Continue reading this article here.

In the Meme Time: Summary, a First Step in Editing Your Novel

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Summary

In the Meme Time: Revive Your Darlings

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In the Meme Time: Revive Your Darlings

Revive your darlings

How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part III

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part III

This is the third of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here; and Part II is here.

ROUND FOUR

Review your story’s time line. Could all the events have taken place during the time span? Although you don’t have to account for every minute (or even every day) of your characters’ time, help your readers get a sense of time’s passage with transition phrases like two weeks later or later that evening.

Craft a strong opening and a strong ending for every chapter. If each chapter starts with a beautifully-written sentence that sets up an intriguing situation, the reader will want to continue reading. The last sentence should compel him to turn the page (cliffhangers are good).

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Did you follow through on ideas you presented in various chapters? Are there elements, like a meaningful symbol or talisman, that you want to carry throughout the whole book? Write them down, and check to see if you did carry them through. Are there characters you introduced who need to reappear, or who really don’t matter to the story? Add some scenes to develop them, or delete them altogether. Do all your threads tied up at the end?

Have you included enough detail? Be sure you have not assumed too much knowledge on your reader’s part. You’re immersed in the story; help them to also be. But give your reader credit for intelligence.

Take out the unnecessary routines that passed your characters’ time unless there’s a reason to detail them. Nobody wants to read about your protagonist flossing his teeth (unless you’re writing a dental thriller). However, sometimes routine material can add color to the time setting. My work-in-progress is set in 1967, when no one had an automatic ice maker in their fridge. I take the reader through a step-by-step account of filling an old-fashioned metal ice cube tray.

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FINAL (MAYBE NOT LITERALLY) ROUND

Get rid of weenie words. Search your manuscript for is, was, were, and that, because they are often paired with weak, passive words. Replace them with strong, active words.

Eliminate clichés. Clichés are fine for first drafts, because they help you get your thoughts down. But unless you have a character whose quirk is always speaking in them, find a fresh way to make your point (maybe instead of her hair blowing in the wind, it whipped her shoulders), or twist the cliché. My protagonist recorded in her journal that it was raining “cats, dogs, zebras, and giraffes.”

Beautify your writing with poetic devices. Vivid writing heightens your readers’ enjoyment of your book. Alliteration, anaphora, onomatopoeia, metaphor—search poetic devices online for the full palette. Read these examples of picturesque sentences.

It goes without saying that spelling, grammar, and punctuation must be correct. I’m dismayed when I find errors in a book I’ve paid good money for. Even if you’re not, don’t alienate your readers (and potential agents and publishers) by turning in a sloppy manuscript.

Rewrite

When your manuscript is the best you can make it, send it out to a few (five?) beta readers. These should be trusted writer friends who are farther along in their careers than you. (You do have a group of trusted writer friends at various levels of proficiency, don’t you? If not, you need to cultivate some.) Ask your beta readers to look for: consistency; boring parts; coincidences or too-convenient solutions; and clarity. Have them write down any questions that occur to them as they read, and whatever suggestions they have for what you can do better. Give them time to work. Some might give you a forty-eight hour turn around, but most will require a couple of weeks, or longer if they’re busy.

Read through all the feedback once without making any decisions about changes, except for the most obvious corrections that you absolutely know must be made. Many of the suggestions you’ll receive may seem absolutely wrong, counter to what you’re trying to achieve with your book. You don’t have to change a thing. However, if four out of your five trial readers have a problem with the scene on page 175, you can be sure something’s wrong with it. Let the feedback sit for a couple of weeks, and then reread all the suggestions again. Consider them carefully, and implement the ones that will make your story stronger. Remember when I said above you were on your final round of revision? I lied. You may need to go back and redo some of those rounds. Put in the work to make your manuscript the best it can be.

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Now, maybe you don’t need to do as many rounds of revisions as I’ve described in this article. Maybe your drafts aren’t as ugly as mine. I know lots of people who are so eager to get published that they send out their manuscripts after a couple of quick swipes. I’ve also seen self-published work that could have used additional edits. If you’re experienced, you can judge for yourself how deeply you need to redo. If you’re unpublished, err on the side of caution. But don’t let a desire for perfection keep you from ever submitting; that’s just counter-productive. Aim for excellence, not perfection.

Then send your baby out into the world.

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

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How to Rewrite, Revise, and Edit Your Novel, Part II

This is the second of a three-part series of articles. Part I is here.

ROUND TWO

Identify each of your subplots. Do they all have a complete arc (beginning, middle, and ending)? Do they have their own twists and complications? Can you think of a way to make them richer? Is there a thread that never fully developed? In your notebook, write down every idea that comes to mind.

Take a close look at each of your main characters: protagonist, antagonist, and the most important subordinate characters. Although it will be time consuming, go through the manuscript multiple times, zeroing in on one character’s story at a time. Have you identified their external needs and their internal needs? Do they each have their own arc (do they grow over the course of the book)? Does each have his or her own unique voice? (This is my biggest challenge. My daughters say all my characters talk just like me. Sigh.) Does your bad guy have at least one redeeming characteristic? (Maybe when he comes home from work, he shoots baskets with the neighbor kid for five minutes.) Make notes. Fix the easy stuff; think about any big changes.

Work through the entire manuscript a few more times, fleshing out the weak parts, and implementing the best of your notes. When you’re satisfied you’ve done the best you can, print out the entire manuscript, double-spaced, in all its glory. And buy a set of different colored highlighters (pink, blue, yellow, orange, and green), and a red pen.

ROUND THREE

Analyze your manuscript. I like Margie Lawson’s EDITS system. (Margie Lawson is a phenomenal writing instructor and the founder of Lawson Writer’s Academy, which offers online courses—or you can order a packet of course notes—well worth it!) The linked article gives the process, but start by highlighting all the dialogue in blue. After you finish all the steps, you’re ready for round three.

Shrink large, unbroken expanses of green (description). Gone are the days when you could spend a page describing your character’s eyes (although, maybe you still can in a Victorian romance novel). Include just enough details to make it real for the reader. What is out-of-the-ordinary about your characters or your settings? What is likely to be unfamiliar to your readers, requiring explanation? Use words that activate the senses, pulling the reader in to experience the person or place on the page.

Break up pages of yellow (narrative) with action, dialogue, and emotion. Action implies motion. Your character’s thoughts do not constitute action or dialog. Maybe while your protagonist paces in his hotel room processing the arson of his home, he can hurl a lamp across the room. And if you need help inserting more pink (visceral responses), I recommend you acquire The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. The book lists physical manifestations of every emotion. (If you want, you can try out the abbreviated version, Emotional Amplifiers, for free.)

By the time you finish round three, you might be sick of your story, or you may be super excited about it. Either way, set your manuscript aside for a couple of weeks and work on something else.

You’re not done yet. But don’t worry; I’ll post the rest of the process next Tuesday. See you then. If you found this post useful, please click the “like” button below, and share on your favorite social media.

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