As Susanne Gervay remarked in a comment on last week’s post on this topic http://wp.me/ppiTq-Fl ,
“Editing needs NOT to be rushed.”
And it’s totally true. How many of us rush through the rewrites to get our manuscript off in the next mail or submitted to that great competition happening in two day’s time? Or perhaps, just because we’re sick of the fact that we haven’t sent anything ‘out’ in ages? How many of these manuscripts actually end up being published in this form? Not many I’d say.
Editing a draft manuscript is like sipping a nice glass of wine or savouring chocolate; it needs to be tasted and revered, to be given the time to express its true flavours.
When I take editing slowly, look at chapter by chapter, page by page, paragraph by paragraph, line by line and even word by word, I discover that so much can be improved about a draft that I may have thought was ‘finished’.
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Know your weaknesses as a writer and you’ll be able to make your manuscript a lot tighter.
These are the things I specifically look for when I’m editing because they seem to be things I keep doing in my writing. So until I break the habits, I need to watch out for them:
1. I say something is happening and then I show it. You just need to show what’s happening and character’s reactions; don’t need to say that it happened as well. Here’s what I mean:
It annoyed Amanda when her mother nagged her. “Can’t you just trust me for once,” Amanda folded her arms in front of her and glared at Mum.
Don’t need “It annoyed Amanda when her mother nagged her.” The reader can tell from what Amanda says and doses that this is so.
2. Find a ‘favourite’ word and overuse it. A simple word search will reveal this.
3. Write a paragraph back to front so that the consequences come before the actions.
4. Use a lot of character names or places beginning with the same letter.
5. ‘That word will do’ is another of my writing enemies. A word, ‘won’t do’.
You have to find the word that works best – the one that has the strongest and most relevant meaning.
6. Boring sentence structure – if it bores you, it will bore the reader. You need to vary it and make it flow. Look at joining some of the shorter sentences. Short sentences are great in a suspenseful situation to convey tension.
In the lead up to conflict you can look at varying the length and structure – perhaps using metaphors and other devices to give the reader a feel for your setting and insights into characters.
KNOW YOUR FRIENDS
1. Your objective self – try and step back from the manuscript and read it as if someone else has written it.
2. Your voice. Reading your manuscript out aloud will reveal if a word has been repeated. You can than do a search for this word to make sure you haven’t overused it.
3. Reading your manuscript in small pieces will help you pick up bad paragraphs. For example, edit two or three pages then take a short break so that when you go back the manuscript is fresh.
If you edit for hours at a time without a break, it can be easy to miss the ‘small’ things in your manuscript.
4. Make up a style sheet. This is simply a piece of paper laid out like a table with a letter of the alphabet in each box. List all your place and people names next to the letter of the alphabet they start with. This will show you if you have overused a letter and which ones you’ve hardly used at all. You can also do one of these for your characters and this will help you pick up if they have changed eye or hair colour mid manuscript.
5. A good reader, crit buddy or group can prove to be your best friend/s. They will pick up things you haven’t even thought of. I find that with writing YA, it’s particularly useful to have a teen reader because they will pick up where they voice and behaviour of a YA character is not authentic.
6. A style sheet for abbreviations, anagrams etc so that you can be consistent every time.
7. A Thesaurus is one of my best friends and helps me get rid of mundane or repetitive words in my manuscript.
If you have some other editing devices for picking up the little things in your novel, we’d love to hear about them.
Last week we looked at editing methods and this week we’ve looked at some of the nitty gritty to do with editing.
Next week we’re going to look at delving deeper into your story and editing its shape to make it stronger.
Happy writing and editing:)
* * Special thanks to Karen Tayleur for introducing me to and providing me with sample style sheets.